Last year there was a pretty close race between two players in the system for our 2011 Minor League Player of the Year. Starling Marte and Robbie Grossman both had similar results, and the edge went to Marte as he played at a higher level. This year there was another close race, only the two players played at the same level, on the same team. Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson were the biggest breakout players in the system, and two of the biggest breakout players in all of minor league baseball. Their numbers at the end of the year were very close, to the point where the race could be called a tie. Breaking down the two players, one of them edged out the other. Gregory Polanco was that player, and is the Pirates Prospects 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.
Polanco finished the 2012 season with a .325/.388/.522 line in 437 at-bats. Hanson had a .309/.381/.528 line in 489 at-bats. Both finished with 16 homers. Hanson had a higher slugging percentage, Polanco had a higher on-base percentage, and Polanco edged out Hanson in OPS by one point.
Looking at the advanced numbers, Polanco also had the edge. According to FanGraphs, Polanco’s wOBA was .408 compared to Hanson’s .405. The wRC+ numbers were 148-146 in favor of Polanco.
Defensively the results weren’t close. Polanco was much better at his defensive position in center field this year than Hanson was at shortstop. Polanco also gained points for his consistency. The outfielder had an OPS of .838 in April, .802 in May, .868 in June, 1.051 in July, and .900 in August. Hanson got off to a monster start in April, with a 1.129 OPS. His OPS in May was .859 and .936 in June. He slumped in July with a .752 OPS, but rebounded with an .898 OPS in August. Hanson only had one off-month, which isn’t a big deal. The fact that Polanco was over .800 each month, and improved in the final two months, gave him another edge.
It was close between the two players, but Polanco had the edge in several areas. Going forward, both are top prospects and potential impact players. They both currently play premium defensive positions, and both could remain at those positions, although there’s more of a chance of Polanco sticking in center than Hanson sticking at shortstop. They’re also both young enough that they’re not finished developing. Polanco added some power this year after adding some muscle to his tall, lean frame over the off-season. He could still add more power going forward. The same could be said for Hanson, who went from four homers in 442 at-bats in 2010-11 to 16 homers in 489 at-bats this year. Going forward, the two should continue to compete as the best position players in the system as they work their way up the levels to the majors.