Buy Low Candidate: Could Gregory Polanco Return To Fantasy Relevance In 2021?

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Remember when the Pirates’ Gregory Polanco was viewed not only as a viable fantasy option, but a strong selection? Back in 2016 he hit .258 with 22 HR and 17 SB, and two years later he nearly matched it (.254 with 23 HR and 12 SB). Injuries helped to derail him in 2019, but what’s the excuse for a miserable 2020?

Over 174 PA Polanco hit .153 with 7 HR and 3 SB, with a rising strikeout rate being the glaring issue. Polanco posted an ugly 37.4% strikeout rate, as the numbers were ugly against all pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 19.27%
  • Breaking – 24.12%
  • Offspeed – 30.23%

You have to wonder if the missed time in 2019 coupled with the late start in 2020 led to a lot of the swing and miss issues (lack of reps leading to a loss of timing, perhaps). He’s never shown that type of swing and miss, and he did improve against hard pitches as the season wore on:

  • July – 23.68%
  • August – 23.94%
  • September – 14.42%

Obviously he could still stand to improve, but at least it shows promise. When you couple that hope with some of the other underlying metrics, you start to see what’s possible:

BABIP (.193) – While you can argue that he was too pull heavy, with a 20.0% Oppo%, and he continued to put too many balls in the air, at 46.3% fly ball rate, it’s easy to envision a significant improvement in his “luck”. His 47.4% Hard% only hammers home that point.

Exit Velocity (92.9 mph) & Launch Angle (20.8) – The Exit Velocity placed him 13th in the league and the Launch Angle in a tie for 15th among qualified hitters. Those numbers justify his 15.9% HR/FB, and could also indicate even more upside.

At 29-years old he may have lost a step, but would double-digit stolen bases be a stretch? Maybe Polanco isn’t an elite player at this stage of his career, but would returning to a .255/20/10 player over a full season be so hard to believe? That type of mark should put him among the Top 50 outfielders, and a strong option for those in five-outfielder formats.

The price isn’t going to be prohibitive, as you should be able to acquire him for pennies on the dollar, and therefore place him on your buy low/sleeper lists.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

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