Gregory Polanco Draws Rave Reviews From the Futures Game

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco drew rave reviews from the Futures Game.

There’s something about the Futures Game that leads to a top Pirates prospect giving a bad first impression that doesn’t represent his skills at all. On Sunday, Gregory Polanco started in center field for the World team. Polanco went 0-for-1 with a walk, but the thing that stood out was his bad route on a ball hit over his head to straightaway center field.

You can see the route in the video at the top of this article. Polanco turned and started running to his left. He turned around, realized the ball was heading to his right, quickly turned, but had no chance on the ball. He probably wouldn’t have caught the ball if he ran straight back, but it looked awkward. The same video shows him fielding a ball hit to shallow center, which was pretty uneventful.

Polanco isn’t a bad fielder, but the route he took represents one area of his game that needs to be polished. It’s almost like how Gerrit Cole was hit hard in his Futures Game appearance a few years ago, showing his tendency to leave the ball up in the zone. It was a bad first impression, but not a long-term issue. I’ll get to Polanco’s fielding in a minute, but I wanted to highlight some of the reactions on Polanco’s performance this weekend.

The Reviews

**Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus has a glowing report on Polanco. In the article intro he says “Gregory Polanco’s swing sounds like unicorns mating”, which is a line worth the price of a BP subscription by itself. He did note the routes in center weren’t the best, but talked about how it is easy to dream on Polanco’s projection.

**Keith Law brought up Polanco getting spun around on a deep fly ball to center, noting that it probably wasn’t catchable. Law notes that Polanco is a very good defender in center field, and made an unfortunate error in judgment when everyone could see it.

**Ben Badler of Baseball America said that Polanco had the best batting practice session, and could have a Domonic Brown-like power breakout in his future.

About Those Routes

I saw a lot of Polanco this year in Bradenton. I wish I could say I never saw him take a bad route on a ball straight back, but I have. Polanco is a great fielder, but one weakness with his game is judging balls that are hit directly to center field. For balls hit over his head, he tends to get turned around. He doesn’t have those problems with balls hit deep and to the gaps, using his speed to go directly to those and cut them off. Polanco also tends to freeze up and take a second or two to recognize a ball hit straight towards him. That’s not uncommon, but it seems like Polanco takes an extra second compared to most center fielders, kind of looking like a deer in the headlights at times.

One of the final things Polanco was working on before his promotion to Altoona was his fielding in center. Specifically, he was working on ranging straight back. Marauders manager Frank Kremblas forced Polanco to play in shallow center field, which would force him to gain some trust in ranging backwards. By playing shallow, Polanco was forced to use his speed to hustle back to balls hit deep.

The placement resulted in two things. One is that by playing shallow, Polanco could prevent guys from taking an extra base on a single to center. He also had enough speed to get back to the wall, even when he was playing shallow. He ended up making some plays that he wouldn’t have made if he started deeper in center field, just because he was more aggressive with his speed.

The biggest benefit that playing shallow can provide is that it can give Polanco more experience ranging backwards. He doesn’t have issues ranging to the gaps, and he has the speed and range to cover a ton of ground in center. He just needs to improve his ability to judge balls hit to straightaway center. By playing shallow, he’s going to see more in-game opportunities to judge balls off the bat, and run routes straight back. He may not play center field in the majors, but he’s still going to need the ability to run good routes on balls hit over his head.

Every prospect has things to work on. Fortunately this is one of the few things Polanco has to work on, outside of adjusting to new levels and eventually tapping into his raw power. As far as development goes, this is preferred over something more serious like a plate patience issue or the lack of a tool. This is an issue that can be improved with experience, which is something Polanco can still get in the next year before his expected arrival in the majors.

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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  • buster09

    If that is the biggest flaw in Polanco’s defense,believe me,that will get resolved quickly. I can tell you for certain that the biggest problem both McCutchen and Marte’ had was the exact same one when they were in AA. If you would have seen the catch Polanco almost made in Weds. night game against Bowie in left/center field reaching over the high fence to take away a HR ,you wouldn’t be too concerned about his defensive ability. The ball did pop out of his glove when it came down on top of the fence,but it came back into the field of play where they turned a possible triple into an out at third base.

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

      I’m not concerned about his defense at all. I think he’s the best of the three. It seems like he covers the entire outfield in three steps.

      • buster09

        His stride is so long that it is almost ridiculous !

        • deacs

          Never seen him run but would you say he runs like Colin Kaepernick? That guys tall and just seems to glide rather than take a bunch of steps.

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

            Here’s a video:

            • deacs

              Thanks Tim. Excellent.

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

    Are we even going to ask Polanco to play CF? He’s probably going to RF.

    Foo

    .

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

      My alignment would be Polanco in CF, Cutch in LF, Marte in RF. But they’ll probably keep Cutch in CF and go with Polanco in LF.

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

        In the past in the MLB the guy with the big contract stays at his position if he is fairly decent. Such as Bernie Williams. I wont use Jeter because he should have been moved to 2B years ago.

  • deacs

    Why Marte in RF? Because of his arm strength or is that where you would put the “worst” of the 3 fielders? Also Jason Parks is right. If you close your eyes you can’t tell the difference when it comes to Polanco’s swing and Unicorns getting it on. It’s incredible.

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

      Arm strength really.

      • leadoff

        Arm strength is why he should be in right field now, also Tabata is a better left fielder than a right fielder. I would put Polanco in left field when he gets here.
        Also it could be that Polanco turned the wrong way because he was not used to the decks in Mets stadium, don’t they have 5 decks, not saying he does not have to work on his fielding.

        • csnumber23

          Sorry but Tabata needs to be on the bench. No way I move Marte from left right now.

          People seem to forget what a lousy fielder Tabata is and his bat is not the answer either. A move will be made for a RF or 1B.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

        I can imagine now.
        .
        Ball hit deep to right field …. it’s off the Clemente Wall, runner is going to try for second …. Marte catches the ball off the wall and guns it to second…OUT. What a play!

    • smurph

      Yeah, Marte has the strongest arm. McCutchen doesn’t get the best jump on flyballs. He mostly makes up for that with his speed.

  • jamminjoe66

    There’s no way Cutch should stay in center. Of the 3 he’s the weakest of them. But Hurdle doesn’t have the boys to move him. Bonds got moved in favor of Van Slike & it was the correct move.

    • csnumber23

      I agree with you that Cutch is the weakest of the 3 and the funny part about that is, we are talking about a gold glove CF. That is how good our Outfield is going to be.

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

      I think Cutch will move without a fuss if the other two become clearly established starters. This Spring it would have been silly to move in favor of Marte, who could quite conceivably have slumped and gotten demoted.

      Once Greg and Marte are both locked and loaded for the next half-decade I think we’ll see Andrew in LF (assuming that still seems like the optimal deployment).

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

    Potential to be a tall version of Fred Lynn?

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

      When I first watched his tape I thought of something between Domonic Brown and Dexter Fowler.

      • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

        Reminds me of Bonds.
        Polanco LF (MVP type potential)
        Cutch CF (Needs CF for his massive now ego. Good thing by me)
        Marte RF (Reincarnation of 21. Belongs on that wall. You need him on that wall. You want him on that wall.)

        I’m drooling at that outfield. I swear of NH messes that up I’ll never forgive him. Never. Ever.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    I’m curious, if you had to rate the 3 in the 80 scale, what would there approximate #s be for their speed and arms?
    Guessing Arm ranking : marte – polanco – Cutch.
    no idea for speed.

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

    My question kinda goes along with the previous one, but could you rank the three (Cutch, Marte, Polanco) in the following areas at their peaks:

    1. Pure Arm Strength
    2. Effective Throwing (who do you want throwing out a tagging runner on a sac-fly to LF?)
    3. Pure Speed (who wins a race first-to-home?)
    4. Base-Stealing
    5. Situational Hitting (who do you want coming up needing a single, or with one out and a runner on third?)
    6. Pure Power
    7. Effective Power (who will have the best single-season SLG or HR?)
    8. On-base ability (who will have the best OBP in the long run?)

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

    Also, would you care to comment on Klaw’s concerns about Greg’s swing?

    “He’s (Greg’s) a disciplined hitter as well and has good bat speed, with just a slight bat wrap (loading his hands so the barrel of the bat is up above his head at its highest point) to concern me about his overall approach.”

    Thanks.