March 03, 2005

Polanco best choice for 2, readers say

It was close, but Placido Polanco would make the best No. 2 hitter for the 2005 Phillies, according to 39 voters who participated in a BPF poll.

Polanco, last season's No. 2 hitter, earned 11 total votes, edging CF Kenny Lofton by one vote. Lofton was penciled in as the team's No. 2 hitter when he was acquired back in December.

Polanco gained votes as the week went on, after news that third baseman David Bell's reoccurring back problems may force him to miss time.

Chase Utley was next with 7 votes, including one from the Berks Phillies Fan, though news of Bell's back forced reconsideration.

The surprise signing of Polanco is starting to sound not so bad after all. The Phillies had offered him arbitration under the assumption he would sign with a new team. Instead, he accepted the offer, even with the understanding he'd be a $4.5 million utilityman.

BPF take
Some will dispute this, but I like to think I know I little bit about baseball. But when it comes to Placido Polanco, every opinion, notion or prediction I've written turns out wrong.

In the past, I've called Polanco "a journeyman at best," made arguments he was a liability on offense, criticized the team for not trading him last year, and for resigning him this year.

While he needs to raise his OBP to be a truly effective No. 2 (during one stretch last season, he went one month without taking a walk), I'll admit to underestimating Polanco badly the last two seasons. To his defense, he's also been unlucky with injury setbacks.

The truth is, even if Polanco was blocked out of a starting spot at second or third, he's going to get his at bats one way or another. He's a good defender at multiple positions, and a good hitter who improved his BA and SLG as the year went on.

Even with a healthy Bell, a number between 400-450 ABs isn't unreasonable. When Thome needs a break, which will happen more often this year, expect Utley to slide over to make room for Polanco at second, in addition to an occasional platoon start.

But now that Bell could be hobbled all season, it could be more like 500 ABs, comparable to other super-utility men of the NL, like Pedro Feliz or Ryan Freel.


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