Gregory Polanco…. Unintentionally, this has turned into “Apology Week” here at the Fantasy World Order. Since his 2012 minor league breakout season, I have reserved a very special place in my fantasy heart for Gregory Polanco. Last year, we finally saw some of what he was capable of as dual threat with power and speed. As you are probably aware, I was convinced that this year would be his true breakout campaign, where he joined the elite at outfield.
It is getting close to the middle of May and Polanco is triple-slashing .238/.333/.333 without a single home run, 6 stolen bases and 18 combined runs and RBI. Aside from the steals, he has given his fantasy owners no production. Never mind being elite, Polanco has been downright bad. Worse, there is very little reason to believe that Polanco will turn it around.
Late in spring training, it was reported that Polanco was dealing with shoulder discomfort, which is something that Polanco has struggled with in the past. This was an immediate red flag for me. Shoulder injuries are known to sap power. Low and behold, Polanco has played nearly six weeks of baseball and his ISO sits at .095. His hard contact percentage is 20.5%. It is the sixth lowest in baseball – the players higher on the list are: Jarrod Dyson, Jose Peraza, Erick Aybar, Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon. That is not good company for Polanco, who needs to hit for power to be productive.
Not only is his contact lacking authority, but it’s also being driven into the ground at a near 2:1 clip (GB/FB 1.91, which was 1.05 in 2016). In fact, the only thing I see in Polanco’s profile that is encouraging is his plate discipline – 11.6% BB% and 14.0% K%. If you combined that with the 2016 version of Polanco’s batted ball profile, we are talking about a borderline superstar. However, now, we are looking at a player that cannot generate the type of power that Polanco needs to generate his fantasy value. I suspect his walk rate may dissolve as pitchers realize that Polanco cannot hurt them with strong contact.
Going forward, there are a couple of possibilities here. One, Polanco’s shoulder never gets right and he is the 2015 version with less power and better on-base skills (and possibly, more steals to boot). Two, Polanco’s shoulder gets right – either through a DL stint (best case) or the issue corrects itself on the fly (unlikely) – and he begins to hit for power along with his improved plate discipline.
In short, you – the Polanco owner – are stuck between a rock and a hard place with him. You really have three options: (1) you can float Polanco’s name for another slow starter without red flags (or more easily correctable red flags); (2) you can float Polanco’s name for a hot starting player, who has no pedigree – the buy high candidate; or (3) you can staple Polanco to your bench until he shows real signs of coming out of this funk.
His upside is such that I would prefer option 3 even if I am not optimistic about the possibility. I admit though option 3 is extremely difficult to pull of in today’s fantasy game, where players are landing on the DL left and right. So if you get a bite on a player like Kyle Schwarber, who is off to a bad start, or Michael Conforto, who is red hot and seems poised to seize an everyday role, then it would be advisable to pull the trigger. Each of those players you can play with some level of confidence, you probably do not (and should not) have that confidence on Polanco right now.
-With Andrew Toles lost for the year to a knee injury, the road has been cleared for Cody Bellinger to remain with the team. Bellinger has come out absolutely scorching hot, hitting .315 with 6 homers since being called up to the big leagues. I own Bellinger in both my dynasty leagues and have been a fan of his long-term upside – comping him long term to Anthony Rizzo. That said, if I am the Bellinger owner in redrafts, I am throwing his name around to see if anyone is willing to pay top dollar for the prospect since an adjustment period will likely come before long for the twenty-one year old slugger.
-While we are discussing some bad calls, let’s take a look at everyone’s favorite future Hall of Famer – Trea Turner. Turner is presently the 232nd ranked player according to Yahoo! with 18 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 6 SB, a .260 AVG and .722 OPS. He has not been the savior that everyone thought, but far from a disaster to this point, right? Well… If you take out a ballistic four game set in Coors, Turner has 8 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 6 SB and a .189 AVG. He also struck out 26 times in that 85 PA sample for a 30.5% K%. Last week, Turner continued his march to Cooperstown hitting for a .138 AVG with .332 OPS. I would not dream of declaring victory on that sample and the games in Coors count, but I think you have to be second-guessing yourself a bit if you took Turner as a first round player.
-For all the complaints about the lack of quality pitching, there is Charlie Morton striking out nearly 10 per 9 innings with a 50% GB% on one of the best teams in baseball, sitting out there unowned in 63% of Yahoo! leagues. I mean, I get the fact that he’s Charlie Morton – his track record for performance and health do not inspire confidence, but I will take 10 K/9 and 50% GB% all day!
-As a bonus and follow-up to Takeaways from earlier this week, Bautista turned on a 96 MPH fastball from Danny Salazar for a home run. A single pitch is the smallest of samples, but it’s a good sign nonetheless that Bautista was able to catch up to and drive a pitch at that velocity.