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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  • vanderbilt

    Nice to see Jacob Stallings up near the top again. I think it was the first week of the season the last time I saw his name around the top.

  • buster09

    I say try Polanco in Pittsburgh Tim ! They need to do something about a leadoff hitter and getting Marte ‘ down closer to the middle of the order where he belongs. Could their offense truly be any worse than it was yesterday ?

    • Kevin_Young

      I’ve got to be honest….I actually agree with this. If we’re not going to have a right fielder that can hit, why not try having one that will almost assuredly take walks and play defense.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Polanco isn’t an answer this year.

      • Kevin_Young

        i haven’t seen Polanco live so I can’t really offer a legit opinion on it, but are you saying this because you don’t think he could match Tabata’s production, or that it could harm his development?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          A little of both.

          Look at Lambo. It was only 10 plate appearances, but he only had one hit in that span. The idea that a player can just be put in the majors and “let’s see what happens” is usually focusing on that player’s eventual upside, without realizing that the player hasn’t reached that upside. It was only a week ago that Polanco had an OPS around .750 in Double-A. How do you think he’s going to do in the majors? By comparison, Tabata has a .754 OPS this year. So why would Polanco be an upgrade right now?

          • Kevin_Young

            I suppose my thought is that his defense and baserunning would both be immediate upgrades while the hitting would be worse. My guess would be a worse wrc+, and better defense and running metrics leading to a slightly higher WAR. Mind you I could be dead wrong.

          • tdtony35

            Polanco might be an upgrade because he is a winning ball player who is intelligent & energetic.
            Polanco has shown the ability to adjust fairly quickly at every level.
            I believe he is one of those players who will perform better @ the Major League level because he will know what to expect from Big league pitchers & he will adapt accordingly.
            He would be a better lead off option than Marte VS RHP & provide better Defense & base running than any RF guy that they have been sending out there.
            Most top level players all improve when they get to the Majors.
            I believe Polanco is a top level player & will do they same.
            At this point The longer he is kept in the minors the harder it will be for him to adjust to the Majors.
            Marte is a good eg of this “minoritizing”. He had 5 years in the minors to improve his pitch selection & look how poorly that is going.

    • http://battlingbucs.wordpress.com battlingbucs

      Don’t agree with the Polanco thing but getting another lead off man would be a good step. Walker with his .376 OBP and 15.5 K% against RHP would be a good option. Flipping it around Mercer and his .453 OBP and 7.6 K% against LHP would be a good option against the other hand.

    • IC Bob

      Marte has a 340 OBP he bunts for hits all the time. Don’t think he is a middle of the order guy. Lets go out and get a good hitter late. Texas paid nothing for Rios I have to believe we could get a Morse or a Marneau for the price of there contracts and a glorified prospect (Rojas). This is a great time for Neal to sow up Executive of the year award. Make a move get it done!

  • leadoff

    Polanco is in the Pirate system, that means touching all the bases no matter what, he will have to succeed at AAA before he gets near the majors. I saw him in March and did not think he was anywhere near mature enough for the majors, but the talent he has is very impressive, he is still filling out.
    The other problem with bringing in someone or as we saw with Lambo is the fact that Hurdle is not going to play them, Huntington would have had to bring in a Soriano type for Hurdle to put him in the lineup and there was none available.

  • leadoff

    Right now Hurdle has 6 platoon players for 2 positions, somehow that does not register as good to me!

  • CalipariFan506

    Texas paid nothing in terms of prospects for Rios. But his salary next year would prohibit the Pirates from ever thinking about a guy like Abreu.

  • leadoff

    Abreu money is not out of the Pirates class or availability, sometimes it comes down to scouting and time, most of the time it comes down to time, I would be surprised if the Pirates were willing to go 6 years for an unknown.
    If it were just money, why would they offer Jackson 30 mil for 3 years when money was actually a little tighter for them at the time?