By Jason Shetler
After a breakout season in 2012, Gregory Polanco established himself as a legitimate prospect in the Pirates system. That success continued in 2013 across three levels in the minors. Polanco entered the 2014 season as the Pirates top prospect, and completely tore apart AAA pitching upon being called up to Pittsburgh. Here are the stat comparisons for Polanco each of the past two seasons with the Pirates, including what FanGraphs projects him to do this year.
2014: .235/.307/.343, 84 OPS+, 9.6% BB rate, 18.9% K rate, 0.3 WAR in 89 games
2015: .256/.320/.381, 93 OPS+, 8.4% BB rate, 18.6% K rate, 2.3 WAR in 153 games
2016 (FanGraphs): .276/.345/.430, 9.5% BB rate, 17.8% K rate, 3.7 WAR in 150 games
Polanco struggled after his call up in 2014, and was demoted for a brief time to AAA Indianapolis. Outside of an above average walk rate, he was a replacement level player. Polanco scuffled again in the first half of last season, posting just a .653 OPS. Something really started to click for him in the second half, as he put up an OPS of .749. Factoring in the improved offense, defense and baserunning, he was a two-win player. FanGraphs sees good things for Polanco in 2016, as they project him to be worth three wins.
My analysis: Regardless of his first half struggles or second half success last season, Gregory Polanco did a very good job of getting on base with the free pass. His ability to hit lefty pitching, particularly in the second half, was very encouraging to see. Although he makes mental mistakes on the basepaths at times, he’s not afraid to take the extra base. Polanco is considered by most to be the Pirates breakout player for 2016. Going by the FanGraphs projections, those numbers would not surprise me.