Polanco is supposed to be one of the core members of the current Twins roster as he is under team control through the 2025 season. It was certainly looking like Minnesota got a hometown discount during his first season of his contract extension, but now the team might be wondering about Polanco’s future. Let’s examine what’s changed and how Polanco can get back to being an above average player.
2020 Campaign: Plenty of Bad
There were plenty of battles during the 2020 season and Polanco was trying to comeback from offseason ankle surgery. For the year, he hit .258/.304/.658, which was a 183 point drop in his OPS from 2019. His biggest issue seemed to be batting from the left-side where he had a .606 OPS and a 30 to 12 strikeout to walk ratio. These totals certainly aren’t great, but there might have been some more hidden issues at play.
His Statcast numbers also showcased some of his offensive struggles. According to barrel%, Polanco ranked in the 8th percentile while his xwOBA, xSLG, and hard hit% were all in the 29th percentile or lower. By season’s end, he needed another ankle surgery and fans were left to wonder if this would be a chronic injury moving forward.
2021 Campaign: Bad to Better?
The start of a new season gives hope to all teams and players, but Polanco’s struggles continued through the team’s first 15 games this year. He went 9-for-57 (.158 BA) while getting on base less than 24% of the time. He also struck out in over 19% of his at-bats and only drew four walks. His power seemed to be all but gone as his .445 OPS was over 320 points lower than his career mark. Things didn’t seem like the could get much worse, but then something clicked.
While the Twins have struggled lately, it’s looking more like Polanco has returned to his All-Star level form. Since April 20, Polanco has hit .333/.391/.596 (.987) with seven extra-base hits in 16 games. His Statcast data also shows his improvement as his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG are all in the 60th percentile or higher even including his slow start.
His biggest area that still needs improvement is his numbers as a left-handed batter. For his career, he has hit .279/.349/.435 (.784) when facing righties. So far in 2021, his OPS as a lefty is nearly 140 points lower than his career mark. Some of this might be from his cold start, some of it might be associated with his comeback from injury, and some might be due to the smaller sample size this early in the year.
The Twins don’t need Polanco to carry the offensive load, but they do need him to be more of a threat than he was in the season’s early games. Hopefully, his ankles are healthy and he can continue to improve his offensive numbers.
Can Polanco keep up his recent improvements? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.