GREGORY POLANCO
CENTER FIELDER
  Born: September 14, 1991
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 206
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Signed: Int. FA, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2009
How Acquired: Int. FA
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: N/A

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Polanco started off with the Pirates as a tall, lean, athletic outfielder with excellent speed. The Pirates thought he had power potential, but initially he didn’t show a great deal of hitting ability.  He has the speed and athleticism to play center and also has a very good arm.  He’s also shown good base stealing ability.  By 2012 he’d filled out some–without losing the speed–and had a breakout year at the plate.

2009
DSL:  267/370/357, 221 AB, 8 2B, 6 3B, 33 BB, 50 K, 12-16 SB

Had respectable first season as the regular right fielder in the DSL, including lots of walks but also lots of strikeouts.  He hit for only gap power.

2010
R:  202/245/287, 188 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 9 BB, 41 K, 19-21 SB

Struggled in GCL, although he did start to show some power, with three HRs.  He finished tied for fourth in the GCL in steals, while getting caught only twice.  His walk and strikeout numbers, though, were very bad.

2011
R:  237/333/361, 169 AB, 4 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 24 BB, 33 K, 18-18 SB
A-:  100/100/100, 10 AB, 2 K

Back in the GCL, Polanco showed improvement, especially in his strike zone judgment.  He split time in center with Willy Garcia and also played right, and had eight outfield assists total.  He was perfect as a base stealer.  The Pirates moved him up to State College at the end of the season and he got into three games there.

2012
A:  325/388/522, 437 AB, 26 2B, 6 3B, 16 HR, 44 BB, 64 K, 40-55 SB

Polanco had a breakout season and established himself as one of the better hitting prospects in the minors.  Unlike Alen Hanson, who got off to a huge start and then cooled off, Polanco started fairly well and kept improving.  His OPS was .822 before the South Atlantic League All-Star game and 1.030 after.  His overall numbers might have been even more impressive if he hadn’t missed over half of August with an ankle injury.  He destroyed LHPs, with an OPS of 1.087 against them, compared to .850 against RHPs.  His plate discipline was very good.  His base stealing efficiency wasn’t quite as good as previously.  Baseball America rated him the 3rd best prospect in the South Atlantic League.

2013
A+:  312/364/472, 218 AB, 17 2B, 6 HR, 16 BB, 37 K, 24-28 SB
AA:  263/354/407, 243 AB, 13 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 36 BB, 36 K, 13-20 SB
AAA:  222/222/222, 9 AB, 1-1 SB

Polanco didn’t have quite as outstanding a season as in 2012, but he had a strong enough year to make his way through three levels.  He spent the first half at Bradenton and put up strong numbers.  The Pirates promoted him in June and he hit respectably at Altoona, especially for a 21-year-old, but never quite got on a hot streak.  He was significantly more patient in AA, possibly a matter of feeling his way against better pitching.  He struggled against LHPs on the year, posting only a .693 OPS against them, but like his reverse split the year before it may have been happenstance more than anything.  Scouting reports on Polanco continued to be very good, although there’s some question whether hell have more than average power in the majors.  He impressed scouts in the field as well and profiles as an above-average center fielder.  Of course, he won’t be playing center in Pittsburgh any time soon, but an outfield of Polanco, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen could be extraordinary defensively.  Perhaps in preparation for that, Polanco played six games in right and three in left for Altoona.  Otherwise, he played center all year.  The Pirates promoted him to AAA for the last couple games of the season and the playoffs.

2014
AAA:  328/390/504, 274 AB, 17 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 28 BB, 49 K, 16-22 SB
MLB:  235/307/343, 277 AB, 9 2B, 7 HR, 30 BB, 59 K, 14-19 SB

The Pirates added Polanco to the 40-man roster in the off-season.  He got some attention with a huge winter campaign in the Dominican, then opened the season in AAA and was blistering hot from the start.  This of course led to clamoring for him to be called up and accusations that the Pirates were leaving him in AAA strictly for financial reasons, to avoid “super two” eligibility.  The Pirates maintained that he needed more time and, even when it appeared he was unlikely to qualify as a super two, they still didn’t bring him up.  They only did so on June 10 when Neil Walker got hurt, forcing them to move Josh Harrison from right field to second.  Polanco started off hot, but slumped after a couple weeks.  He struggled severely with LHPs, putting up just a 171/222/244 line against them.  On the positive side, his BB:K ratio shows he wasn’t overwhelmed.  Polanco is a disciplined hitter who tries to wait for a pitch he can handle.  He didn’t dominate in AA when he moved there from high A, as he seems to need time to get comfortable at some levels.  He was also tentative at times in the outfield, taking some bad routes, but he showed a strong arm.  The Pirates eventually sent Polanco back to AAA for the last week of the minor league season.  He came back up in September, but mostly came off the bench.

Polanco’s struggles aren’t exactly unusual for a rookie and shouldn’t be cause for panic.  Some people close to Polanco maintained that he was simply worn out, having played baseball non-stop for two years.  Of course, the Pirates may also have been right in maintaining that he needed more AAA time.  They’ll have to decide whether to send him back to AAA for a while in 2015 or go with him in right.  Fortunately, Travis Snider gives them a good Plan B.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2015: Major League Minimum
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $150,000
MiLB Debut: 2009
MLB Debut: 6/10/2014
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2013
Options Remaining: 2 (USED:  2014)
MLB Service Time: 0.000
TRANSACTIONS
April 11, 2009: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent.
November 20, 2013: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.