Stronger El Coffee is a Good Thing For the Pirates

Gregory Polanco went in to the off-season with a plan. The plan was to add more muscle, without sacrificing speed. And that plan seems to have worked, as Polanco added 12-15 pounds of muscle, putting him at 235 pounds. That’s a massive difference from the 170 pounds that he weighed when he was signed in 2009, at which point he was just a tall, lanky prospect who was described as looking like a sick giraffe.

The last time I recall Polanco making such a big off-season adjustment came right before his breakout season in West Virginia in 2012. The added muscle allowed him to finally realize his power potential, and he went on to hit for a .325/.388/.522 line at the age of 20 in low-A. Last year he made a lot of noise in the Dominican Winter League, followed by a big season at the plate in Indianapolis.

Despite that success, Polanco struggled in his jump to the majors. It’s way too early to write him off, and his initial jump can just be chalked up to the difficulty of making the move from Triple-A to the majors. Polanco has all of the tools needed to be a star player, and his frame allowed for more muscle and more power potential. He’s got the type of tools, swing, and athleticism that you can dream on, and the new weight he added can only help him realize his upside.

The video below features Polanco discussing the added weight, along with Clint Hurdle talking about how that was the plan for Polanco heading into the off-season. There is also video of Polanco taking batting practice today, including a very nice slow-motion look at his swing around the 3:08 mark.

  • Nice article. I noticed Polanco not running out grounders with the same gusto he initially showed upon his recall, so there’s definitely something to him wearing down during the season. When he learns to judge fly balls better in big league parks then that comfort level will be even greater. I have a hard time seeing such a heavy player steal, say, more than 35 bags. I think back to Dave Parker as one of the few big men who could run. I’m excited to see whether Polanco can fulfill Tim’s thinking that Polanco has bigger potential upside than Marte or McCutchen.

  • The Pirates did Snider a favor by sending him to another team, but I think they will wish they hadn’t. Snider had more home runs, rbi’s, and a higher OPS than Cutch after the All Star break. Also, his defense, especially his throwing accuracy, was excellent. I know Polanco looks like a great athlete, but he hit terribly the last couple months and his defense was flat out bad. It is easy to project great things onto someone who looks the part, but baseball requires more than a strong physique.

    • Brand: Snider at 27 has been in the majors for parts of 7 years, is already into his arbitration years, and had his best performance in the second half of 2014 at .288/.356/.524/.880 OPS in 170 AB’s. But, his first half of 2014 was .237/.318/.342/.660 OPS in 152 AB’s. You may be right, but this is a classic case of trading a player at their highest point for two very good, young, LHSP Prospects.

      The Pirates made their decision to go with the 23 year old Gregory Polanco in RF, and Snider was not going to get his shot in 2015 with the Pirates. Instead, his trade gave new life to Andrew Lambo and, IMO, Mel Rojas, Jr – both had excellent numbers at AAA in 2014.

      • I understand the logic and I hope I am wrong, but it looked like Snider finally put it all together. He may regress back to his mean, Lambo may be just as good, and Polanco might be great. We will see.

        • BL….remember how Tabata ‘put it together’ in the second half of 2012?

          • Monsoon Harvard
            February 22, 2015 3:29 pm

            I don’t.
            Tabata has never “put it together” in his entire career with the Pirates.
            Unless by “put it together” you mean more singles than usual, while still having absolutely no extra base power whatsoever, and still being unable to drive home many base runners from scoring position.

            • In his last 170 PAs of 2013 Tabata hit .312/.357/.490, with 8 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 home runs.

              In his final 188 PAs of 2014 Snider hit . 288/.356/.524 with 12 doubles, and 9 home runs.

              I think that is what Lee is referring too.

      • It’s funny how marte’s poor 1st half and stud 2nd make him a superstar.. but not snider. ..

  • Time to grind the coffee beans and make a brew that packs a punch.

  • Arik Florimonte
    February 22, 2015 12:02 am

    I think he must be working hard on his English, too, it’s gotten a lot stronger.

  • The Pirates will have a decent offense in 2015, with the likes of McCutchen, Marte, Walker, Harrison, and Mercer. If Alvarez hits more like he did in 2013, as opposed to 2014, they could be one of best hitting teams in the NL. If Polanco becomes the player we all think he has the potential to becoming, than look out – this offense could be really special.

    • Johnny Delancey
      February 21, 2015 4:53 pm

      This offense was among the best in the National League last season, and even with Russell Martin gone, I expect that to continue this season.

      • Arik Florimonte
        February 22, 2015 12:05 am

        R Edwards, well said. a lot of things have to go right, but those you mention are not long-shots.

  • Tim: You hit the nail on the head, 6’4″ 235 – this is a very strong kid and he has to have a better mental idea of what to expect at the plate this year. I hope that he has a second year similar to the one that Starling Marte had. I will be interested to see where the Pirates place him in the batting order. If we leadoff with JHAY, then I would see him as the natural #2 hitter.

    I still think the future has Hanson at leadoff and Polanco at #2 unless he shows he can hit for 20-25 HR power and then he would be in that #4 spot that has been such a problem to fill.