Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #3 – Gregory Polanco

The Pirates Prospects 2013 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features over 250 prospect reports, the 2013 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Jin-De Jhang, C

19. Andrew Oliver, LHP

18. Vic Black, RHP

17. Adrian Sampson, RHP

16. Wyatt Mathisen, C

15. Bryan Morris, RHP

14. Justin Wilson, LHP

13. Tony Sanchez, C

12. Dilson Herrera, 2B

11. Clay Holmes, RHP

10. Nick Kingham, RHP

9. Kyle McPherson, RHP

8. Tyler Glasnow, RHP

7. Barrett Barnes, OF

6. Josh Bell, OF

5. Luis Heredia, RHP

4. Alen Hanson, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 3 prospect, Gregory Polanco.

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco

3. Gregory Polanco, OF

Ever since he made the jump to the US in 2010, Polanco looked like one of the most intriguing prospects in the system. He stood out for his tall, skinny frame and his five tool potential. During the first two years in the system, Polanco looked raw, failing to carry those tools over to the game. There was a big difference in his game heading into the 2012 season.

Polanco entered Spring Training with some extra muscle on his frame. That resulted in a power surge, with the outfielder hitting everyone hard, whether it was left-handers, guys at his level, or Double-A level pitchers. The performance was enough to earn him an aggressive promotion to West Virginia.

Alen Hanson over-shadowed Polanco for the first few months of the season, mostly because of Hanson’s unreal numbers in April. As scouts watched Hanson, they quickly started to notice his teammate. Polanco was consistent, never dropping below an .800 OPS in any month. He really sealed his fate as a top prospect with a monster July, hitting for a .394 average and a 1.051 OPS. By the end of the year there was a debate over which breakout hitter was better, with the edge going to Polanco.

A big reason Polanco gets the edge over Hanson is due to his defense. Both are great hitters. Polanco has a bit of an unusual swing, but he’s got a lot of power from the left side, and above average plate patience, which is rare from a power hitter and rare from a Latin American hitter. He still has some projectability in his frame, which means we could see more power in the future.

There are questions whether Hanson can stick at a premium defensive position, but those questions don’t exist for Polanco. He has a ton of speed due to his long legs. He glides across the outfield, covering a lot of ground. Pairing the range with a plus arm, Polanco has the skills to stick in center field. As a plus defensive, power hitting center fielder with plus speed on the bases, Polanco is one of the most interesting players to watch. That’s not only among prospects, but among every player in the system. He should move to Bradenton in 2013, and could make the jump to Altoona by the end of the year.

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Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Tim…from Hanson’s article

    “I feel like eventually you’re going to start asking me for commission.”

    I’ve been waiting for those royalty checks for some time. I need to supplement my retirement somehow. :)

    Btw, over at “the Plus”, they say you are my adopted son. I replied “If he were, he’d let me stay at his Florida home like a GOOD son”.”

    lol

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      You’d probably get bored. It’s just non-stop baseball there, and the only time I ever take a break from work is when I’m cooking BBQ in the smoker. You probably wouldn’t want any part of that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    As stated before, I am getting excited to see these two boys in Altoona.

    Can’t wait!!!

  • John Dreker

    While I had Heredia above Polanco and Hanson, I also agree that the reason Polanco is rated higher is because he is more likely to stick at a premium position. He is also a better baserunner, has more power potential and didn’t strikeout at a high rate like Hanson.
    They aren’t as far apart as that makes it seem, because Hanson is a year younger and I think he can stick at shortstop. Since folks who see him are split on that, I don’t take it for granted that he can just because of what I saw in six games and four high energy infield drills before games

  • http://www.deanmanifest.blogspot.com Dean Manifest

    Many of us may have started to underrated Polanco a prospect because, with McCutchen and Marte already in the fold, we’ve started to think of him as a right fielder. Conversely, we view Alen Hanson as potentially filling our team’s most gaping hole. Hanson may possess the greater potential “value over replacement Pirate” than Polanco, but that shouldn’t matter.
    .
    A couple questions: 1. How does Polanco compare defensively to Marte and McCutchen? How do his arm, range, instincts, etc look at this stage compared to those two at the same point, and how does his projection stack up? If all three peaked simultaneously and were treated fairly, how do you think they would be best deployed across the PNC Park outfield? 2. How does Polanco’s bat compare to Marte? Sounds like he has more patience, but how about his hit and power tools? If all goes well across the board do you have higher hopes for one or the other? And finally, many of us believe that Marte’s sketchy on base skills make him better suited to be a 5 or 6 hitter than a table setter…where do you see Polanco (and Hansen for that matter) settling in in the batting order in an ideal world?
    .
    Thanks in advance.

    • Emilio

      I can’t really answer your questions, but I think you bring up an interesting point. Namely, how does the outfield shake out once Polanco and Bell show up?

      Polanco is likely to show up a year or two before Bell. When Polanco does get here (2015ish) I think Cutch will be coming to the end of his time in center and be better suited in a corner OF spot. Though, this will decrease his value.

      But the real issue is what happens when Bell is ready and Cutch is pushing 30? Maybe I’m making this up, but I think I remember hearing talk of the possibility of Bell playing 1B. The other option is to trade one of these guys (dare I say Cutch), which would be a very hard decision.

      Its a lot of fun to think about what the lineup and rotation could look like in a few years.

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        It wasn’t too long ago that we were asking “What do the Pirates do with Tabata and Presley once Marte and Grossman arrive?”

        These things usually work themselves out. It also wouldn’t be horrible to have more talent than positions.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      That’s definitely true. For these rankings and writeups, I always try to look past that stuff. Polanco has the defensive upside of a center fielder. Whether he actually plays there with the Pirates doesn’t change that upside. Same with calling pitchers #1 or #2 starters. It’s not comparing them to the Pirates’ rotation, but to the league average for #1 and #2 starters.

  • leadoff

    What a future for the Bucs, about the time that Hanson and Polanco come along, possibly Bell, there won’t be any talk of acquiring outfield corner help, the Bucs will be very deep by around 2015 unless they trade a couple of these guys. When McCutchen’s contract is up the Bucs will have to trade him for sure and that should net them another bounty of talent, I think if they play their cards right the Pirates could contend for a lot of years. These guys are legit talent with more behind them, of course we all know especially for the negative thinking people anything can happen along the way. I going to make a prediction, something I rarely do, but I would say the Bucs are positioned to win a division somewhere around 2016, possibly earlier.

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      yet theres a better chance that most of the prospects do not live up to their potential. remember when the Royals had the top system in the game? well, not one of their pitching prospects made it, not one of them.
      .
      its great to see the system so front loaded with great talent, and im confident all of these will play in the big leagues. but Bucs fans have to expect some failure along the way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

    I’m curious…

    Tim, if you’re out there, what sorts of things do you think led to Polanco being rated lower than Hanson in the MLB countdown? I would think that the additional size, power, base running ability, and certainty regarding his ability to stay at a premium defensive position would’ve made him a lock to receive a higher rating.

    As a continuation to the international players conversation, I’m very curious to see how Heredia looks starting off this year. He could leap frog everyone, including Taillon, once Cole graduates from his prospect status.

  • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

    Could be a number of things. Some possibilities off the top of my head:

    1. A stronger belief that Hanson can stick at short.
    2. A lack in trust in Polanco, who was more of a breakout than Hanson.
    3. Concerns about Polanco’s funky swing.
    4. The time when certain scouts saw the two players. Hanson was on fire early in the season. Polanco was on fire late in the season.

    But honestly, that would be a question for them. I can only say why we had Polanco ahead of Hanson.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

    Let’s not get to far ahead of ourselves but what current major leaguers do Hanson and Polanco most remind you of? Jimmy Rollins and Matt Kemp? I know I’m getting ahead of myself but it’s been 20 freaking years so I get a free pass…

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

    top 10 prospects when Neal took over according to BA (1 great ML; 1 above average ML; 1 decent reliever)

    1. Andrew McCutchen, of
    2. Neil Walker, 3b
    3. Steve Pearce, 1b/of
    4. Brad Lincoln, rhp
    5. Daniel Moskos, lhp
    6. Shelby Ford, 2b
    7. Jamie Romak, of
    8. Brian Bixler, ss/2b
    9. Duke Welker, lhp
    10. Brad Corley, of

    top 10 this year (so much more potential, esp. pitching)

    1. Gerrit Cole, rhp
    2. Jameson Taillon, rhp
    3. Luis Heredia, rhp
    4. Gregory Polanco, of
    5. Alen Hanson, ss
    6. Josh Bell, of
    7. Kyle McPherson, rhp
    8. Justin Wilson, lhp
    9. Barrett Barnes, of
    10. Clay Holmes, rhp