Blogs | Sports | News
Bucco Blog

Happy Polanco Day (though it comes under gray skies)


SOUTH HILLS – In case you retire early and rise late, Gregory Polanco will be called up today and is expected to make his major league debut against the Cubs. (Though the Cubs do have a lefty scheduled). Polanco breaking his own call-up news via Twitter …

Is he ready? That’s the key question. Will he thrive and not just survive? Not only do the Pirates need an impact player now to stay on the outskirts of the postseason race, they need to maximize the value of Polanco’s controllable years.

A number of scouts believe Polanco is ready.

Polanco’s 600+ plate appearances above A-ball suggests he’s ready. He’s gotten better at each stop.

Oliver’s projection believes he’s ready. And I believe ZiPS also has a favorable forecast.

For what it’s worth, my brief eye tests found few flaws.

The most athletic outfield in the game now resides in Pittsburgh and it could develop shortly into the best outfield in the game. Marte/McCutchen/Polanco is under team control through the 2018 season, so enjoy that, folks.



Chris Horner photo

It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect Polanco to provide similar production to that of 2013 rookies of Yasiel Puig and Wil Myers or this year’s top rookie George Springer  – though not implausible. I think it is reasonable to expect Polanco to debut as a 2-3 WAR player.

We’ll see. Everyone knows about his five-tool collection but I think he’ll succeed early because of his advanced approach. You’re going to see a player who rarely chases out of the zone, who uses the whole field and generally stays within himself. Oh, he has power but he’s not power-focused. He’s more contact oriented and when he can turn on a pitch he will.

While this is an exciting day for Western Pa. and Polanco, this is not exactly how the Pirates wanted Polanco to arrive. And not just because he may or may not have really cleared the Super 2 demarcation line in which upwards of $15 million in future earnings is at stake.

Neil Walker‘s appendectomy forced their hand.

Walker was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday and will at last miss that much time but he could be back before July.

This is a major blow as Walker is having a career year. He already has 11 home runs, a .353 OBP – and a .805 OPS. (I earlier mentioned the Pirates are OBP starved, which, globally, isn’t true. I do believe they are in need of OBP help atop the lineup with Walker on the DL).

Walker is an important top-of-the-lineup presence and his injury, I suspect, will force Polanco to arrive as the club’s No. 1 or No. 2 hitter. Neal Huntington indicated ideally Polanco would debut further down the batting order. I’m not sure that’s possible now, and honestly, I think you want Polanco up earlier in the order anyway. You can make a case he’ll arrive as the team’s second best offensive player with Walker out of the lineup.

Hopefully, Walker’s ordeal is just for the short term. The emergence of Josh Harrison helps mitigate the issue to a degree, assuming Harrison keeps up his production.

By July the Pirates hope they have Walker back. They hope Polanco has adjusted to the majors and does not need to shuttle back to Indy. They hope the Harrison we’ve seen in May and June is for real and gives the team a legit super sub and important depth. They hope Cole  is back (he played catch off flat ground Monday which was encouraging). They hope they’re healthy and ready for a second have surge.

Until then, they have to hope Polanco can provide an immediate impact. (The Astros have gone 17-9 since Springer’s callup)

He must not just survive, as Huntington says, he must thrive.

– TS



  1. Nate83 says:

    You obviously didn’t look at DK’s blog. It’s not happy Polanco day. It’s dwell over what didn’t happen 1 month ago and get bent out of shape about somebody telling you that you need to go to the game tonight day.

    I for one am celebrating it as Happy Polanco Day!!! In fact those are the exact words I used to wake up my son this morning. Can’t overstate enough how excited I am to see these 3 elite athletes in the outfield all together. And to think we should get at least 4.5 years of them together. Their hit tool could be average and they still have so much value with everything else they do.

  2. NMR says:

    *For the sake of the Blog’s credibility, please never – ever – include Oliver projections again.

    I’m going to make it a point to ignore the numbers for a while once Polanco gets up and instead enjoy just watching the kid. What a freaking specimen. I heard a comparison to Ken Griffey Jr’s swing last night and just might buy it.

    -“…– for an OBP-starved team –…”

    These ain’t your old Pirates, Trav! Only one team in the National League has a higher OBP, and they play half their games at Coors Field.

    That being said, Josh Harrison will be extremely hard pressed to fill in for Walker, and I worry the biggest difference will come in the field. Josh just does not have the glove to be an everyday middle infielder, and the rotation needs all the help they can get.

    When Walker does come back, how dangerous would it be to have a 3-4-5 of Cutch, Walker, and Pedro/Martin hitting behind Polanco and Ike Davis?

  3. Travis Sawchik says:


    The Pirates’ aggregate OBP is very good and “OBP-starved” is not fair assessment, globally, and I’ll make a correction …. But with Walker on the DL only three players – McCutchen, Davis and Martin – have OBPs above .327.

    More specifically the Pirates’ top of the lineup will be OBP starved with Walker on the DL.

    We’ve seen a number of players in miscast batting roles, most notably Marte batting lead-off. I think McCutchen is one of the game’s leaders in coming to bat in two-outs-and-no-one-on scenarios.

    Point is, Polanco’s skillset would be much welcomed at the No. 1 or No. 2 spot. (Perhaps, too, would be Ike’s OBP)

  4. NMR says:

    Nah, stick to your guns, Travis. No need to revise.

    Not sure what criteria you prefer, but I’d argue that league average OBP is currently .312 and the Pirates lineup tops that at every position but SS and P.

    But I do agree with your overall point completely. Absolutely have to get guys on base in front of Cutch.

    Anyone willing to entertain a LaRussian idea? Pitcher hits 8th, giving opportunity for three guys to get on in front of Cutch….

  5. Jim S. says:

    I heard Harold Reynolds compare the Polanco swing to KGJ on MLB Tonight. Harold saw quite a bit of that swing in Seattle.

  6. Nate83 says:

    The breakdown of Polanco’s swing was well done. I didn’t realize he had kind of a downward chop to the initial swing but then levels it out quickly. It’s almost like the bottom of the first hill on a big roller coaster.

  7. Nate83 says:

    It’s a really nice line up. Better then anything they have had in a long, long time. If Marte can continue to figure it out they have a great mix of speed, power and patients. I don’t think we could have said the patients part last year but a few guys in the line up have improved immensely with their plate discipline.

    They also will have a bench with Gaby, Tabata and Harrison which is more production then they have had in the past.

  8. Jim S. says:

    It was a good discussion. Of course, Greg “Betcha couldn’t guess I’m from St. Louis” Amsinger tried to throw cold water over the Polanco hype with the comment that some think he has a long swing. He always feels the need to play devil’s advocate when it is something positive about the Bucs. He managed to avoid criticisms of Oscar Tavares last week, though. Harold didn’t want to hear it, though. He said it’s hard to not have somewhat of a long swing when you are 6’4″, but that he thought most of the length was on the follow through. I’m not a swing expert, but I thought he made sense when he explained how Polanco is actually pretty short to the ball.

    Was it also Darryl Hamilton in the studio with them? He liked Polanco’s stride.

  9. Jim S. says:

    Neil Walker is now one of those “patients”, Nate. ;-)

  10. BostonsCommon says:

    Does it make much a difference when the 9 hitter is Barmes/Mercer/Stewart? Or does that trio end up in the 7 hole and Marte/Harrison move to the 9? Part of me wants to see both of those guys higher up to increase PAs.

    Speaking of:

    I kind of like another NL Central trend: Best hitter in the 2 hole to maximize PAs (Votto and Braun). Any idea how many more PAs this creates over a full season?

  11. Jim S. says:

    1/9 per game, Bostons? That’s what I’m thinking.

    I like that #2 guy trend also. I think that sort of lends itself to a guy like Harrison batting 9th.

  12. Jim S. says:

    By 1/9 per game, I should clarify. Wouldn’t the math be that if you moved from #3 to #2 you would bat 1/9 more often? So, approximately 18x more over the course of a 162 game season.

  13. Nate83 says:

    I think it was. They added Mike Lowell this year and I really like him a lot. Really seems knowledgable and reasonable with his comments. Reynolds can be a little over the top sometimes but overall I don’t mind him. Al Leiter and Dave Valle are decent as well. The rest I can take or leave but there are a few I just can’t stand. Overall they are better then ESPN in my opinion.

  14. Nate83 says:

    I like it less for the increased at bats which may only be like 15 per year and more for them coming up with less then two outs. It’s gaurenteed in the first inning and with 8 hole hitters and pitchers ending the inning a lot of times it brings them up with less then 2 outs later in the game as well.

  15. NMR says:

    City affiliations aside, I think that is a completely fair comment on swing length from both Greg and Harold.

    It is hard not to have a long swing when you’re that tall, but that’s still real-world length. Credit Polanco for tightening it up, but it is what it is.

    The fact that he seems to make as much hard contact as he does only highlights his plus hit tool.

  16. NMR says:

    Boston, my thought was Marte. The ole two leadoff hitter system. But then that takes away a guy to hit behind the walk machines.

    Would really be neat if Jordy Mercer didn’t completely suck.

  17. Andrew says:

    It is not so much the total PAs but the situation that hitter frequently faces, the problem with your best hitter 3rd is statistically he is going to come to the plate with 2 outs and no one on, more than any other lineup spot. I have seen David Manuel bring this up a lot with McCutchen.

    If no one has seen it, this is a nice quick breakdown of lineup construction, that avoids the gory math.

  18. Steelkings says:

    Lets see……
    – Wandy
    – Cole

    Whats left



  19. greg says:

    So, who gets traded or released when Walker returns? Sanchez, Tabata, Snider or Harrison. (I see Snider as the likely player to get cut or Tabata to be traded.)

  20. Andrew says:

    That about sums it up.

  21. Nate83 says:

    Slim pickings. That’s a lot to overcome.

    I don’t know how Rob Ray is doing for the Tigers but I do know Porcello is really struggling. If Rob Ray is showing enough promise maybe Porcello could be had at a buy low price for a bullpen arm and middle tier prospect. As I have said on DK’s blog today I’m not a fan of making moves to try and save this season but I think Porcello has 2 years until free agency. He could be a nice bridge to the pitching prospects in 2016 and 2017.

  22. Jim S. says:

    Porcello is a F/A in ’16.

  23. Jim S. says:

    Thanks for the link, Andrew.

  24. Nate83 says:

    Thanks. I wasn’t sure if it was ’16 or ’17. Not as good a fit if it’s ’16 but much cheaper to get then Price and he has been healthy for the most part. I think he has enough upside and a change to the NL would help. Just speculation. I haven’t heard he is available but Ray has pitched a few games and their bullpen continues to lose them games (but we can’t talk about that).

  25. NMR says:

    Think you nailed it, Greg.

Other blogs
Sports: Rob Rossi | Steel Mill | Chipped Ice | Bucco Blog | iPreps | Pitt Locker Room | Penn State Sports
News: This Just In | Trib List | ICycle | Flow Back | Stories Behind Trib Stories  

» Top Sports » Top News » Top Breaking News