Paul Zeise: Gregory Polanco isn't living up to his hype

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Pirates general manager Neal Huntington received praise in April 2016 when Gregory Polanco agreed to what appeared to be a team-friendly five-year contract extension. The deal placed Polanco under control until 2023, and his salary wouldnt be more than $11 million until the two club-option years.
Huntington may ultimately be rewarded for that deal, but there is mounting evidence it will become the most expensive he has eaten since signing Jose Tabata to a similar deal in 2011.
Polanco is way too young to be considered a bust but is nowhere close to the player Huntington thought he was signing. Huntington wasnt the only one, by the way Polanco was a top-10 prospect in 2014.
Then there was this genius, who called Polanco a cant miss talentand a classic five-tool player.I wrote that after I saw him play in April 2014. In that series, he was a man among boys, flashed power, showed range in the outfield and threw a runner out from deep right field. He also stole a base without even getting to top speed.
The game seemed so easy to him that its puzzling the Pirates are still waiting for that version of Polanco to arrive, three years later. Theyd probably settle for about 75 percent of that version because Polanco has not come close to fulfilling those lofty projections.
Polanco, 25, is hitting .246 with a .303 on-base percentage and .648 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Batting primarily in the No. 3 spot until last week, he has only six home runs and 20 RBIs in 244 at-bats. Compare those numbers to John Jaso, who has seven home runs, 24 RBIs and 18 walks in only 167 at-bats. Jose Osuna has five home runs and the same number of RBIs as Polanco in about half as many at-bats (128).
His fielding is problematic and doesnt seem to be getting better. He has had a negative defensive WAR in three of his four seasons. He frequently misplays balls and only is able to recover because he is 6-foot-5 and fast. He looks lost often when tracking down balls in the air, and despite a strong arm he has one assist this season. His hitting likely will come around. He may not become the 30-home-run/100-RBI player he was projected to be but will at least be an above average major-league hitter with a little bit of power. His fielding and base-running may never improve he doesnt seem to be any better in either area than he was four years ago.
This was supposed to be the season Polanco broke out. Its his fourth in the majors; hes still young and improving but isnt a rookie anymore. If he was hitting well right now, he would take some of the sting out of losing Starling Marte and Jung Ho Kang.
This year, though, shouldnt be the major concern for the Pirates because they appear to be going nowhere. Its the next four years Roger Maris Youth Jersey��that should have them extremely nervous. Huntington has already missed on this kind of gamble with Tabata. If Polanco turns out to be a bust, too, his contract will be the kind that can get a general manager fired.
Posted 12 Jul 2017

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