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Happy Polanco Day (though it comes under gray skies)

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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.

dreamOF

 

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

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