In the Dominican on Monday night, Gregory Polanco extended his hitting streak that started on Opening Day, to nine games. In his second at bat, he lined a single up the middle for his only hit of the night.
On Monday, we posted a season recap of the 2013 Pirates right fielders, then questioned whether signing a free agent right fielder this off-season was the right thing to do. One thing of interest this Winter League season, is the fact that all three strong possibilities for the 2014 right field job will be playing this Winter.
Obviously, Gregory Polanco is making a strong pitch for that job and he will get an extended look in Spring Training this year, but it is highly unlikely that he will be the Opening Day right fielder. One reason is due to his AAA experience, which consists of a couple late season games and the playoffs. The main reason is team control. If they wait a couple weeks to call him up, they will get an extra year of control out of him. That doesn’t mean they will do that, because you also have Super-Two status to worry about, but if he is ready and by far the best option, then you might overlook that extra cost for the help he would provide over an extra 70 or so games they would get out of him.
Around the middle of next month, the other two players competing for that right field spot, will start their Winter League season. Jose Tabata is playing Winter ball in Venezuela for the first time since 2010, although he wanted to play last year. Tabata is just coming into his prime, and he is looking to not only prove that the last two months weren’t a fluke, he is looking to make up for some lost AB’s, because he wasn’t playing everyday.
The third player is Andrew Lambo, who will get going in the Dominican around November 15th. He had a breakout season this year and he will be 25-years-old going into next year. Lambo proved he could do well in AAA and the Pirates got a glimpse of him in September, so a lefty-righty combo of Tabata and Lambo could possibly work, giving Polanco time to develop at a normal pace in AAA.
Usually, we would have to wait until Spring Training to watch this battle unfold, but these three will be getting it going three months sooner. It will at the very least, give Pirates fans something interesting to follow during the Winter months. Last year it was Starling Marte providing much of the excitement in Winter ball, then he went out and had an excellent first full season in the majors. This year it looks like three other outfielders will provide the excitement, and so far, Polanco is in the lead.
*Monday is usually an off day in the Winter Leagues, so no one else was in action. The Escogido game was a make-up of an earlier rainout.
* On Saturday, we mentioned Adolfo Flores, a hard-throwing Pirates pitcher that was signed two years ago, but hasn’t pitched a game yet. He made his Winter debut in Nicaragua and gave up no runs and two hits in 1.1 innings.