Seems like Gregory Polanco is going to be a superstar.
Sometime down the road.
But right now? It is patently and painfully apparent he’s struggling; even as he goes through just his first full venture into Major League Baseball.
But these aren’t those woebegone Pittsburgh Pirates anymore. This isn’t a team trying to have a winning record or needing to entice Pittsburghers to put their butts in the seats by handing them bobbleheads, supplying them with the sound of Styx or shooting off a gazillion fireworks.
The Pirates are good.
They will fight for the National League Central title.
They command and demand attention and, with it, the players who give them the best opportunity to win should be on the 25-man roster.
All that said, could it be time for Polanco to spend a little time back in Class AAA Indianapolis? The Pirates front office should, at the very least, consider it. Doing so might be best for both the short-term health of the 2015 Pirates and, more important, the long-term well-being of Polanco, who is just 23.
The numbers yield an indisputable fact with Polanco, who rarely gets at-bats against left-handers and has become, for the most part, a platoon player in right field. Headed into play on Thursday, he had just six hits since June 7 and, even with that added muscle in the off-season, hadn’t hit a home run since the last day of May and has only three on the season.
El Coffee has become a cup of decaf.
His batting average in April was .278, but he hit only .226 in May and in at-bats in June is two points lower than last month. His slugging has dropped steadily as well, from a slugging percentage in April of .405 to a June slugging of .299.
Polanco’s on-base has also showed a steady decline in the first three months of the season.
And we have all seen, with our own eyes, the way Polanco struggles to gauge how and when to slide into bases with that gangly frame of his and those curious and circuitous routes he takes at flyballs. It seems like sometimes even the most elementary of tasks appear to be a struggle for him to maneuver through with fluidity.
Quite simply, he’s still a kid learning how to play this game.
Is this alarming to the degree where the Pirates need to re-evaluate everything moving forward? No, not in the least. It would appear that Polanco — who has played a shade less than one full season of games in his career — is going through natural growing pains that almost all young players encounter.
But these aren’t the Pirates of 10 years ago. This isn’t a team that can afford to have guys learn on the job or risk zapping the confidence of a guy such as Polanco, who is tabbed to be a key piece moving forward.
Plus, there are viable options. Josh Harrison could move to right field with Jung-ho Kang playing third and Jordy Mercer at shortstop. Jose Tabata, Sean Rodriguez and Jaff Decker could all play some right field if the Pirates deem it necessary to send Polanco down to Indy to get some additional seasoning.
Is this something the organization absolutely, positively needs to do? No.
Is it something they should very seriously consider? Indeed.
The move could work out best for both the Pirates as a whole and, most significant, Polanco individually.