The Pittsburgh Pirates have found their temporary replacement for Gregory Polanco.
Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall is the new kid on the block, signing a one year, incentive driven pact with the Pirates Monday night. Bucs Dugout’s very own Jason Rollison was the first to report that the Pirates had interest in Chisenhall. The 30 year old is likely going to be the starting right fielder while Polanco is rehabbing, so let’s take a look at the new guy.
The main concern surrounding Chisenhall is his health. A right calf strain limited him to just 29 games last season- the fewest in his career. That same injury made him miss almost two months of the 2017 campaign as well. The Pirates have taken a stab at many different types of reclamation projects over the past couple of seasons, but they have usually opted for healthier candidates.
Defensively, Chisenhall is a mystery. While he has racked up 11 defensive runs saved in the outfield in just under 2,000 career innings played, he’s cost his team eight runs over as an outfielder the last two seasons. His nagging injury surely contributed to his drop in defensive prowess.
The good news is that when Chisenhall has been healthy, he has been solid. He’s slashed .297/.368/.503 over 365 plate appearances the last two years. While it is a small sample size, those were the two best offensive seasons of his career, both in terms of results and peripherals.
A change in equipment may have been the catalyst, with Chisenhall now opting for an axe handle bat. The company that makes this new lumber- aptly named “AxeBat”- claims the slanted knob and handle allows for better bat control and a firmer grip, which leads to harder contact. Chisenhall’s performance looks like a glowing endorsement.
There’s one more thing that’s worth mentioning about Chisenhall. Like many lefty hitters, he would probably get a boost moving to PNC Park. Over the last two seasons, his 45.9% fly ball rate is the 22nd best in baseball (min. 350 PAs). If you overlay those fly balls across PNC Park’s dimensions, he would have hit more homers in Pittsburgh.
His career high for home runs in a season is 13. He seems to be in a good position to flirt with a new high water mark if he can stay healthy and get enough at-bats.
In case you missed it, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen released their list of the top 35 Pirates prospects. Spoiler alert: Mitch Keller isn’t number one.
In more serious news, Beyond the Boxscore’s Daniel Epstein explains why Major League Baseball made a campaign contribution to Cindy Hyde-Smith.