Top Performers: Gregory Polanco is Adjusting Well to Double-A

Below are the top Runs Created* totals in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The rankings include every hitter who had an at-bat for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, not including DSL teams, and with no limitations on whether the hitter has prospect eligibility. Players who spent time at different levels are counted multiple times, once for each level, rather than combining their stats. Notes on the top ten players from the last week can be found below the chart.

*Runs Created is a stat created by Bill James used to estimate how many runs an individual contributes to his team. There are many formulas for runs created. For these purposes the basic formula is used. That formula is ((H + BB) * (1B + (2*2B) + (3*3B) + (4*HR))) / (AB + BB).

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco is starting to heat up in Altoona.

The jump to Double-A can be the most difficult one to make for hitters. Gregory Polanco made that jump back in June, and his hitting has been slow thus far. He had a .256/.356/.369 line in 160 at-bats leading up to about ten days ago. He was showing great plate patience, which was a positive sign that he wouldn’t continue to struggle at the level. However, he wasn’t hitting for average and wasn’t hitting for much power. You always want to see a player make the jump to a new level and pick up where he left off at the old level. That’s not always realistic. We saw Alex Dickerson struggle for the first two months he was in Double-A, only to start crushing the ball after that. This is the rule, and guys who see no drop off are the exception.

Two months isn’t the formula for a player adjusting to Double-A. It just happens that Polanco is starting to heat up after two months at the level. He was the top hitter in the system this week, going 10-for-26 with a triple and two homers. In his last 11 games at the level he has a .378/.452/.676 line in 37 at-bats, with two homers. On the season Polanco is now up to a .279/.373/.426 line in 197 at-bats. That’s still a small sample size which can be heavily influenced by a good or a bad week. But the positives are still the low strikeout rate (14.7%) and the high walk rate (13.2%). Polanco actually has more walks than strikeouts, with a 31:29 BB/K ratio, which is phenomenal. It’s that advanced approach that could allow him to move beyond Double-A once he starts showing he can hit at the level. If he keeps this recent hitting up for the final two weeks of the season, he could be a candidate to move up to Indianapolis for the playoffs, and never look back at Double-A.

Justin Howard has been heating up with Altoona, and continued his hot hitting this week. Howard went 10-for-28 with three homers for the second best score of the week. On the season Howard has a .336/.432/.483 line in 238 at-bats. His biggest issue in the past has been a lack of power, but he’s starting to hit a few homers lately, including five so far in the month of August. Howard has always had good contact skills, and a good ability to get on base. His power this year has been limited to one month and 58 at-bats. You could break that down further and say it has been limited to a one week span where he hit four homers. His ability to hit for power going forward is going to be the difference between an upper level organizational player, and a guy who might have a shot at the majors, even if it’s just in a smaller role.

Josh Bell was the third best hitter this week, going 9-for-23 with two doubles, a homer, and seven walks. Bell has quietly had an impressive year at the plate, hitting for a .288/.361/.464 line in 420 at-bats. He has also been showing some strong plate patience since the start of June, with a 12.7% strikeout rate and a 9.1% walk rate. Those numbers have really taken off this month, with ten walks and two strikeouts in 70 plate appearances. Bell isn’t hitting for a lot of home run power yet, but he is hitting for doubles power, with 37 on the year.

Robert Andino was added to the system to provide depth for Indianapolis with plenty of players expected to be called up to the majors. Andino hit well this past week, going 11-for-25 with three doubles to take the fourth best score in the system.

Jin-De Jhang got off to a great start this season in Jamestown, then cooled for a bit. He could be heating back up, with four multi-hit games in his last six games, including two homers in one game on Sunday. Jhang was the fifth best hitter in the system last week, going 8-for-19 with those two homers.

Gift Ngoepe has been playing in Bradenton with Alen Hanson taking over in Altoona. Ngoepe has been doing much better back in high-A, going 8-for-23 with a double, triple, and nine walks in the last week. The strikeouts are still an issue, as he’s striking out 35.6% of the time in high-A so far.

Jacob Stallings and Jose Osuna are two other Bradenton hitters who ended up in the top ten. Stallings had the seventh best score, fueled by a two home run game over the weekend. He had four hits on the week, and all four went for extra bases. Osuna went 8-for-29 with four doubles and a homer, taking the tenth spot.

Enyel Vallejo is a tall, athletic international hitter who has been getting more time in the outfield in the GCL lately. Vallejo had a hot week with the bat last week, going 7-for-17 with two doubles and a homer. He was originally a shortstop, but was very raw and might have more of a future in the outfield going forward.

The last player in the top ten was Alex Presley, who went 6-for-11 with a double and a triple after being sent down to Indianapolis in favor of Andrew Lambo. Presley should return to Pittsburgh when rosters expand.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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