How Good Are The Pitchers Facing Gregory Polanco?

A popular question during the Winter League season is “How good are these leagues the Pirates players are competing in?” When a player like Gregory Polanco starts tearing up the league, people question how good the pitchers are that he is facing. It happened last year with Starling Marte when he was picking up Player of the Week awards consistently in the Dominican. So I broke down the competition just so people could see who Marte was playing against. With Polanco at nearly the same stage in his development that Marte was at in 2011, when he hit .328 with an .836 OPS in 30 games in the DWL, it’s a good time to break down the pitchers he has faced.

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco is tearing up the Dominican Winter League

Polanco has 64 plate appearances so far this season. He is hitting .358 with five doubles, four homers, 11 walks and a 1.148 OPS in 14 games. He has also reached base at least once  in every game his team has played, collecting hits in 13 straight before going 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday. So the stats are off the charts early on in the year, but who exactly are these pitchers giving up all these hits? It is hard to give people an exact estimate of the talent because it is such a diverse talent pool. He could face a major leaguer one at-bat and a Low-A pitcher the next time up.

Below is a recap of every plate appearance, with an asterisk next to left-handed pitchers. The pitchers top level in 2013 is listed next to their name. For guys who played in the Mexican League, they are listed as Triple-A, which is the accepted level for the league. Other players are former pro players (including a couple former major leaguers) that only player Winter ball now. They are listed as None.

Game One

1. Jose Contreras, MLB – Fly out to CF

2. Contreras – Walk

3. Atahualpa Severino*, AAA – Home Run

4. Leuris Gomez, AA – Single

Game Two

5.  Bruce Billings, AAA – Strikeout

6. Billings – Pop out to shortstop

7. Felix Diaz, AAA- Home Run

8. Jerry Gil, AAA – Line out to CF

Game Three

9. Hector Noesi, MLB – Strikeout

10. Noesi – Double

11. Noesi – Ground out

12. A. Severino* – Strikeout

Game Four

13. Omar Javier, AA – Double

14. Javier – Strikeout

15. Javier – Double

16. Luis Liria, A+ – Walk

17. Rafael Cruz, None – Strikeout

18. Francisco Samuel, None – Ground out

Game Five

19. Dustin Richardson*, AAA- Double

20. Richardson* – Single

21. Ramon Pena, A+ – Single

22. Frank Batista, AA – Walk

23. Ricardo Gomez, AAA – Home Run

Game Six

24. Eliah Villanueva, AAA – Single

25. Villanueva – Ground out

26. Adalberto Mendez, AAA – Strikeout

27. Bruedlin Suero*, A+ – Pop out to shortstop

Game Seven

28. Lorenzo Barcelo, AAA – Strikeout

29. Barcelo – Strikeout

30.  Barcelo – Single

31. Johan Yan, AAA – Fly out to CF

Game Eight

32.  Kyler Newby, AAA – Double

33. Newby – Strikeout

34. Franquelis Osoria, None – Strikeout

35. Kelvin Perez, AAA – Line out to CF

36. Erick Abreu, AAA – Ground out to 2B

Game Nine

37.  Jeff Mandel, AAA – Ground out to P

38. Mandel – Single

39. Roman Colon, AAA – Strikeout

Game Ten

40. Robbie Ross*, MLB – Single

41. Claudio Vargas, AAA – Strikeout

42. Jhan Marinez, AAA – Fly out to CF

43. Mike Marbry, AA – Ground out to SS

44. Buddy Baumann*, AAA – Pop out to 3B

Game Eleven

45. B. Billings – Walk

46. B. Billings –  Single

47. Jose Pina, AAA – Grand Slam

48. Wander Perez*,  None – Strikeout

49. Rommie Lewis*, None – Ground out to 2B

50. Marcos Mateo, AAA – Walk

51. Wirfin Obispo, AAA – Walk

Game Twelve

52. Yunesky Maya, MLB – Line out to RF

53. Maya – Walk

54. A. Severino* –  Walk

55. Manny Delcarmen, AAA – Single

Game Thirteen

56. J. Mandel – Walk

57. J. Mandel – Foul out to RF

58. J.Mandel – Single

59. Pedro Viola*, AAA – Strikeout

60. Ramon Ramirez, MLB – Walk

Game Fourteen

61. Chris Volstad, MLB – Ground out to 1B

62. Volstad – Walk

63. Ramon Ortiz, MLB – Pop out to 2B

64. Luis Vasquez, AAA – Fly out to RF

The Final Numbers And Analysis

Here are Polanco’s numbers against pitchers from each level.

MLB Pitchers: 3-for-8, 4 BB

Triple-A: 13-for-32, 3 HR, 5 BB

Double-A: 4-for-6, BB

A-Ball and Lower: 1-for-2, BB

Against players who didn’t play pro ball in 2013, he has gone 0-for-5. This is a tough group to categorize. They are usually guys who made it at least to AAA and haven’t played affiliated ball recently, but they are still active in the Winter Leagues. As mentioned above, there are some veterans in this group with major league experience.

Against left-handed pitchers, Polanco is 4-for-10 with a double and homer.

The basic finding is that the large majority of the players he is facing pitched in Triple-A this season, with some current and former major league players mixed in there. It obviously isn’t as good as what he will face with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it is fairly equal to what he would see in a Triple-A season. With any small sample size, you can’t take too much from the numbers, but you get an idea of the type of pitchers he (and other players in the Dominican) are facing this off-season.

John Dreker

Author: John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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  • elgaupo

    Don’t you see Tabata just tearing it up in the first half due to Polanco pressure? I bet at the end of June his OBP is >.380.

    I like our 4 OF’s going forward, especially being they’re mostly RH and won’t need platooned against LHPs AND can all play CF.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

      Definitely can see it, elguapo. It seems Tabata is heavily reliant on external pressure to spur his #want. Such a tease because the guy has good tools but rarely gets the most out of them.

  • emjayinTN

    The Australian League, like it’s predecessor the Hawaiian League, is for kids in the lower end of the minors. The Arizona Fall League used to be a AA League, but recently I see more A+ guys mixed in. The Mexican and Caribbean Leagues are for the full gamut from A through MLB, and this is serious baseball played in front of rabid, knowledgeable fans. Polanco barely even saw the field last year, and this year he is a strong contributor and a Star. The majors are filled with many pitchers and hitters from the DR who all came up the same way. Based on his Winter season alone, he is capable of playing in the majors – Starling Marte from the left side with much better plate discipline. The Pirates will have to search the dictionary for words to describe why he needs more seasoning until late June at AAA.

    • John Dreker

      I’ve seen about 15-20 of his AB’s and he’s only swung at one bad pitch(strike three against the lefty Viola), showing great plate patience each time. He did look bad on a ball in the gap last night, unable to catch it or cut it off, then falling afterwards. Batter got a triple and scored on a sac fly, but all reports and what I’ve personally seen, his defense is major league ready. The things you will hear with him is he needs more upper level experience and he isn’t hitting for as much power as he should/ eventually will. The latter is true, but depending on how long he plays Winter ball and how much time he sees during Spring Training, he could have plenty of experience against AAA/MLB pitchers by the time Opening Day comes around.

  • deacs

    Who gets to the majors first – him or Taillon? Assuming injuries aren’t an issue.

    • John Dreker

      Injuries may have already become an issue in this discussion because the Pirates wanted to get more inning for Taillon in the AFL and he had to be shutdown after 2 IP. Taillon didn’t dominate in AAA, but he put up good stats in his six games and one playoff appearance. He needs more time in AAA, while it’s beginning to look like Polanco might not, he already has all the tools you want, just not the sufficient experience. Ultimately, I think injuries and other player’s performances will dictate when you see either of these two, but ignoring everything else that goes into the decision, I’d be more comfortable with Polanco making the Opening Day roster at this point.

  • deacs

    I agree. I feel like they wanted Cole as polished as humanly possible and was probably called up a few weeks before they were comfortable. And Taillon, while close, probably won’te be as much as a finished product as Cole was when he stared AAA. I would imagine if Polanco comes out firing out of the shoot or even holds his own he’s up in mid-June whereas they probably want to tinker with a few things on Taillon (minor as they may be).

    • blackmax

      Re Polanco, I would be surprised if his performance in the Dominican by itself would speed up Polanco’s arrival at PNC Park since Huntington says that winter ball is too small a sample for a player’s strong or weak performance there to alter the master plan. Maybe if he keeps raking in spring training, the front office will strongly consider an immediate promotion. Re Taillon, it has been my impression that he doesn’t need to make the mechanical improvements that Cole has had to work out. I have been assuming that he needs only to get his work in at Indy and that if he stays healthy he is pretty sure to move up in June. Or has he developed some glitch or hitch that needs to be corrected?

      • John Dreker

        I guess it would really matter just how much he plays in the Dominican League, as to whether it really makes a difference in his progress. As an example, Anderson Hernandez went to the plate over 200 times last year in the DWL, that is a significant amount of playing time, more than a small sample size. That’s more than twice as much as you will ever see during Spring Training.
        As for Taillon, he had some minor control issues and has a tendency to leave pitches up in the zone. I definitely think he needs 10-12 more AAA starts.

        • deacs

          I seem to remember Marte ripping through 2012 Spring Training and I don’t think they really took that into consideration. I’m sure Management has a whole check list of stuff they want to cross off that we don’t see. For Cole I think it was the secondary pitches and for Marte I thought it was the strikeouts. They seemed to call up Cole for injury purposes. I don’t think Marte changed anything when he got the call but I could be wrong.

          • deacs

            To clarify I meant they seemed to want Marte to change or improve something in his game before he got the call. I’m not sure he did that in AAA. It seemed as though they just called him up.

          • John Dreker

            They wanted Marte to also work on his baserunning. He was not getting the most out of his speed in the minors. Lots of pick-offs that weren’t showing up in the CS% and he never stole more than 26 bases in a season. He also needed to improve his pitch selection, which really hasn’t happened yet. He is better than he was 2-3 years ago, but not where you would like him. In both of those categories, Polanco is well ahead of where Marte was going into ST 2012

            • deacs

              I forgot about the baserunning. I thought it was more the free swinging than anything else for Marte. So for Polanco there’s really not much to work on. Just get him some upper level AB’s in AAA and he’s about as close to a lock as you can get for say a July 1 arrival? Maybe 3rd week of June provided no Byrd signing?