Gregory Polanco was a late signing by the Pittsburgh Pirates in April of 2009, signing as an 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, atypical from the normal rush on 16-year-old international free agents every July 2nd. Now 22, Polanco is already older than Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper, and just four months younger than Angels’ superstar Mike Trout, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t capable of becoming the next big thing in Major League Baseball.
Polanco is a 6’4″, 220 pound, left-handed hitting machine, who will soon displace the horrific combination of Jose Tabata and Travis Snider in the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield. It is fair to wonder if Polanco in right field from Day One of the 2014 season would have led the Pirates to a better record than their current 18-26 start…that and Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez, and Edinson Volquez showing some semblance of being major league pitchers in their 23 combined starts. Polanco likely would have been up by now had he not turned down the seven-year, $25 million deal that CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman said was offered earlier this month.
Like many others, Polanco sits in the minors waiting for his opportunity to be promoted, not due to lack of performance, but due to the business side of baseball. His numbers this season (going into Wednesday) and his career:
The Astros’ seemed to say “to hell with it” when determining when it was time to promote George Springer earlier this month, allowing him to come to the majors and begin his service time, while, simultaneously risking another season of team control. While costs and control are issues, the Pirates, who had their first winning season since 1992 last year, could use a player of Polanco’s caliber to ignite an offense that currently ranks 26th in MLB in runs scored and 18th in OPS. After introducing a new generation of Pirates fans to “real” baseball, it is inexcusable and a slap in the face to run anyone other than Polanco out in right field the rest of the 2014 season.
Beyond the typical production, here are some additional sweet treats:
- vs. LHP in 2014: .345/.429/.436, 19 for 55, 13:8 K:BB, three extra-base hits, 15 RBI
- Before breaking out in 2012, Polanco managed a triple-slash of .235/.303/.332 over his first 674 plate appearances
- Since 2012, Polanco has a triple-slash of .315/.384/.496 over 1,214 plate appearances
- Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus: “Well above-average athlete; long legs; more room to add strength; easy plus run; big, graceful strides; excellent range in the field; arm is plus; glove could play above average; good bat-to-ball skills; makes a lot of contact; hit tool likely to play plus; power potential is easy plus; makes quick adjustments; plus makeup.”
- Jonathon Mayo of MLB.com: “Polanco has five-tool potential. He is an aggressive hitter, but doesn’t strike out a ton and has become more willing to take a walk. His swing does have a tendency to get long, a problem compounded by his lanky frame. Still, with his hands and bat speed, he has the potential to be a special hitter with above-average power. Polanco has plus speed and covers ground well in the outfield. He is a center fielder now, but he has a strong arm and could slide over to right field if necessary. That could be his spot in PNC Park before too long.”
- John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com: “Five Tool/Seven Skill player with glowing scouting reports, dominated High-A but was merely good in Double-A, granted at age 21 that’s just fine. Spring reports continue to sparkle.”
Polanco looks like he’ll be waiting in Indianapolis for his call until June, but he, and Pirate fans, certainly deserve an earlier promotion. Look for tremendous things from Polanco in the near future. He isn’t capable of monster power numbers, at least not yet, but he can do plenty of things to accumulate value due to his tremendous tool-set, much more than Tabata and Snider.