First Pitch: Using Hanson and Polanco Helps to Predict Future Promotions

Every year at the start of the year I get the same questions: When do you think (Insert Player) will be promoted to (Insert level that is one higher than his current level)?

Of course then I get the same question over and over until that player is promoted. At which point I get the same question, only for the next level. I understand it. The only purpose of the minor leagues is developing prospects. People want to see progress, and the only true sign of progress is a player moving up a level. When a guy gets promoted, it’s a sign of many things. It’s a sign that his numbers are seen as legit in most cases (unless it’s a situation where the guy was struggling before his promotion). It’s a sign that the organization thinks high enough of the player to give him a new challenge. And it’s a sign that the player in question is one step closer to the majors.

The problem with trying to make these “when will he get promoted” predictions is that it’s all an educated guess. In some cases, that guess is based on a ton of history, with a high probability that the guess will be correct. As an example, I feel good about predicting Reese McGuire and Austin Meadows to start in West Virginia next year. That’s based on Max Moroff, Robbie Grossman, and plenty of other top prep hitters who have gone to that level in their first full season. I also feel good predicting most of the top prep pitchers to end up in West Virginia in their second full season. Whether they end up in the GCL in their first full year (Tyler Glasnow) or go to the NYPL (tons of people), they usually make that jump to full season ball in their second year.

In the lower levels we’ve had plenty of examples to go off of, both hitting and pitching. In the upper levels there aren’t many examples to use when trying to predict future promotions. This is the sixth season under Huntington, but that’s not a lot of time when it comes to establishing trends in the minors. It didn’t help that there was barely a minor league system when Huntington took over. It’s easy to establish lower level trends, because that’s where you’ve got all of your draft picks going. It gets harder when you talk about the jump from high-A to Double-A, or any jump higher than that.

This year we’ve added a few examples to that Bradenton to Altoona jump for hitters. It has been kind of phenomenal how few examples there have been in that regard over the last five years.

In 2008 there was hardly anyone in the system. The top performer in high-A was Jamie Romak, and he was promoted mid-season after crushing the ball in the first half with Lynchburg.

In 2009 the Pirates had an obvious promotion candidate in Pedro Alvarez. He didn’t exactly crush the ball, but he did get promoted in June.

2010 was a freak year. Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte, Brock Holt, Eric Fryer, and Jeremy Farrell were all having huge years. However, all five went down mid-season with injuries, and most of them were out for the year. We don’t know if they might have been promoted without those injuries.

The top hitters in 2011 were Robbie Grossman, Ramon Cabrera, and Adalberto Santos. None of them were promoted. It’s hard to say why Grossman wasn’t promoted, although Cabrera (Sanchez) and Santos (Holt) were blocked at the next level.

Last year the Bradenton offense struggled, and no one really earned a promotion to Altoona.

So coming into the year, there was very little to go on for the question of “When will Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson get promoted to Altoona?” Would they get promoted like Alvarez, even if the numbers were struggling? Would they be like Grossman and spend an entire season at the level despite strong results? Does Jamie Romak’s promotion even tell us anything? Can we speculate on what might have happened with the 2010 guys had they not been injured? Due to age and background, Starling Marte would have been the perfect guide for Hanson and Polanco.

 

Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco (left) and Alen Hanson (right) are back together in Altoona.

Alen Hanson was promoted tonight, and Gregory Polanco was promoted last month. That gives us a better idea in the future. Polanco was very polished and putting up great results. He got the quicker promotion, going up on June 13th. Hanson was a month and a half behind him, largely because he’s not as polished as Polanco. Hanson struggled this year with his defense, and also had some early offensive issues. He turned both around, and got the chance to move up a level for the final month of the year.

Those two might give us a better idea of what the Pirates could do next year with guys like Josh Bell and Dilson Herrera. If they come up and start dominating, we might see the earlier Gregory Polanco promotion. If they have a few hiccups like Hanson, it might be closer to the end of the year.

As for Polanco and Hanson, we have a few examples of how they might be handled with future promotions. However, we’re still short on examples.

Polanco spent half a season in high-A, and will spend the second half in Double-A. That’s similar to the progression that Alvarez took, and he started the following year in Triple-A. You could definitely say Polanco is good enough and advanced enough to be on the Alvarez timeline. There are several players who spent entire seasons in Altoona, and a few players who were there for a year and a half. But none of those guys finished the final half of the season in Altoona, leaving our examples pretty short.

I’d guess Polanco will start with Indianapolis next year, based on the Alvarez progression. Alvarez did crush Double-A pitching, and Polanco will have to do the same to get that same promotion.

Hanson is a bit different. There haven’t been many people promoted to Altoona at the end of a season. Most players have been promoted at the start of a new year, and there were a few players promoted in the middle of a previous season. So we’ll group Hanson in with the guys promoted at the start of a new year. The guy he matches up with for me is Starling Marte. Both are highly rated prospects out of Latin America. Both have a ton of tools, but both also have one big question mark. For Marte is was plate patience. For Hanson it is his defense. Marte ended up spending the entire 2011 season with Altoona. From there he went to Indianapolis the following year, and was in the majors by the end of July 2012. I could see Hanson on the same path, assuming he handles the jump to Double-A as well as Marte did.

That’s my prediction on those two. The good thing about those two moving up this year is that it’s going to make things easier to predict in future years. Of course every prospect is a different situation. Just because Marte spent an entire year in Altoona doesn’t necessarily mean Hanson will spend an entire year there. He could spend more, or he could spend less. A lot of that depends on his individual production. That’s the most important thing here. We’re not talking about a checklist, where a player puts in X amount of months at a level then automatically moves up. That type of approach can ruin prospects. The individual players need to be deserving of the promotion first. From there, it’s easier to predict when they might be promoted if we’ve got a guide and some previous examples to help forecast their path.

Links and Notes

**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects podcast: P3 Episode 14: Previewing the Trade Deadline For the Pirates.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Shaky Outing For Heredia, Dickerson Continues Hot Streak.

**Alen Hanson Promoted To Altoona.

**Minor Moves: Casey Sadler Activated off the Altoona DL.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Drop Braves In Extras.

**Minor League Schedule: Glasnow Looks To Continue Dominance At Home.

Pirates

**Marlins Win the Battle of the Young Aces; Wandy and Snider Updates.

**Pirates Place Travis Snider on the DL; Recall Tony Sanchez.

**Tony Sanchez Joins the Pirates — Are His Throwing Issues Behind Him?

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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  • CalipariFan506

    One thing to consider with Hanson is age. He still is 20 now at AA. That’s awful young. A good year at AA then finishing in Indianapolis in 2014 would be about right.

  • Monkshot

    I’m just glad I can see some video of him now. Bradenton for whatever reason does not have any player video on their page. I’m guessing Polanco and maybe Taillon will be in AAA by the end of the year. I’m in Pittsburgh but think I may have to make a trip to Altoona to see these guys.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      Tim, I asked this on one of John dreker’s articles but what are the odds of Polanco getting called up to Indy for the playoffs? His eye and plate discipline and defense have been so good in AA that I see no reason he shouldn’t be challenged with some playoff abs. Especially considering he still has about another 100 abs at Altoona to polish his game.

      • buster09

        I thought John had answered you later last evening Fred. Same thread you asked about Polanco.

  • buster09

    Monk :I hope you come to Altoona while Dickerson is here also. He has been absolutely crushing AA pitching since the end of May.

  • piratemike

    I never have been able to figure out this obsession with some people about these promotions.
    The players hopefully will get promoted when they deserve it and not before.
    I would like to see Reese and Meadows in Pittsburgh next year but it ain’t gonna happen and writing to you ain’t gonna make it happen either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

    I was thinking of possible trades this morning and Michael Cuddyer seems like a great fit. He is scheduled to make 10 mil next year so he is not a rental and fills a need next year too. He crushes lefties and can play an infield corner or RF. he is also playoff tested and played great in the postseason with the Twins. He also has an .872 road OPS this year so it is not all Coors Field. If he doesn’t cost the farm too much I think he is the piece they need to make the offense respectable. The question is, what will he cost?

    • derekbellstutu

      I too like the idea of the Pirates acquiring Cuddyer, but am concerned what it would cost the Bucs in terms of prospects or money. Trading for Cuddyer would easily cost the Pirates one of their top 5 prospects for starters. I wonder if the Rockies would accept a lower level package of prospects (Josh Bell, Stetson Allie, Clay Holmes type prospects) if the Pirates take on all of Cuddyer’ salary. I also wonder if it makes financial sense for the Pirates to take on Cuddyer’s contract. Neal Huntington shouldn’t deal away the farm to acquire a Cuddyer like RF and/or 1B since he may have an insurance policy in Andrew Lambo.

  • CalipariFan506

    He would cost Taillon or Polanco plus more.