Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #1 – Gregory Polanco

The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 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. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP
8. Josh Bell, OF
7. Reese McGuire, C
6. Nick Kingham, RHP
5. Alen Hanson, SS
4. Austin Meadows, OF
3. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
2. Jameson Taillon, RHP

Today we conclude the countdown with the number 1 prospect, Gregory Polanco.

Gregory Polanco is the top prospect in the system, and should be up by mid-season.

Gregory Polanco is the top prospect in the system, and should be up by mid-season.

1. Gregory Polanco, OF

Two years ago, Polanco was just a tall, projectable hitting prospect with a ton of raw tools. In the last two seasons he has added some weight to his frame, developed his tools, and has turned into the top prospect in the system and a future impact talent in the majors.

Polanco is a true five tool player. He hits for average, hits for power, has plus speed, a plus arm, and is one of the best defensive outfielders in the system. His plate patience is advanced for any hitter, and rare to see from a hitter out of the Dominican Republic. That will allow him to maintain a high average throughout his career. He has added power in the last two years, and has enough room in his frame to add weight and one day hit for 30 home runs.

His speed comes from his long legs. One minor league scout watching him in Altoona called him an elite runner (80 grade) for his size. The long legs allow him to cover a ton of ground, giving him great range in the outfield. His one weakness in 2013 came with his routes on straightaway hits to center field. He worked on improving that before leaving Bradenton, but will still need some work before he reaches the majors.

Polanco has the chance to be an impact player in the majors, and he’s not done improving. An AL scout said Polanco improved a different part of his game each time he saw him. His speed, defense, and plate patience will get him to the majors as a starter. He’s got a strong chance to be an impact talent, and the overall package that could allow him to be as good or better than Andrew McCutchen. When added to McCutchen and Starling Marte, Polanco should give the Pirates the best outfield in the majors down the line.

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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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  • STLSledge

    Great time to be a Pirate fan…..not since the ’70’s have the Pirates bought together so much young talent…

  • deacs

    I think next year I’m going to wait to read the 2015 Guide until after the countdown. It will make the countdown more suspenseful. And really what’s there left to say about Polanco other than what spot he’ll bat. 2nd? I asked John the other day and he said leadoff because he draws walks and it would give Marte better pitches to hit. I liked that idea but they seem to like Marte at leadoff so I would imagine he’ll hit second come June (hopefully).

    • emjayinTN

      One of the things missing from the writ-up is the monster Winter Season he had in the Dominican League. The league operates the same as it does in the MLB – they have so much talent to choose from, you have to earn your spot on one of the “major league” teams playing in the Winter League. That was the case with Polanco – not invited until this year. All he did was win the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player Awards – I wonder if that has ever been done in the DR Winter League. I remember one of the playoff games where he was walked 3 or 4 times as the No. 2 batter in the order.

      Where he is slotted in the order will have a lot to do with what is happening in the order when he is “ready” to join the Pirates. I think they will keep Marte as the leadoff in 2014, but if Walker is doing well as the #2 batter, Polanco will probably be slotted deeper in the order to start. I think the real changes will come when Alen Hanson arrives – he has been the leadoff hitter to Polanco’s #2 or #3 in the order since Lo A. A switchhitter who also has an excellent eye at the plate, hits for average with some power, and has plus foot speed. If Marte does not get a handle on making more consistent contact, I look for the Pirates to go Hanson, Polanco, ‘Cutch, Pedro, Marte, Walker . . . etc. Marte is huge physically, and I think the Pirates see him as a middle-of-the-order power hitter capable of hitting 25 HR’s a year as soon as he begins to use the whole field. Put him with Texas or with the Yankees, and it would be 30-35 HR’s/yr. This is a listing that exudes speed, but it is also a listing that Earl Weaver would have loved because there is also a lot of power in that Top 5 or 6. A big shout-out to Rene Gayo.

  • Cato the Elder

    Hey, I just wanted to give a shout out to James Santelli and Pirates Prospects for their SABR Research Award nomination for the article “Pirates Defensive Shifts: The Hidden Secret Behind Baseball’s Best Team.”

    Congratulations, guys!

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/07/pirates-defensive-shifts-the-hidden-secret-behind-baseballs-best-team.html

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/tht-live/vote-for-the-sabr-research-awards/

    • Cato the Elder

      Oh, and Gregory Polanco is good; can’t wait to see him, yadda yadda.

    • emjayinTN

      CtE: Ditto, congratulations James and congratulations Tim on your selection of contributors, including John Dreker and James Santelli. John’s work on the Winter Leagues was excellent, and what was especially admirable was the fact that he followed up with a response to just about every question asked by the readers. The interaction was great. Many of the regulars are from around Pittsburgh, but for us in different states, we always look to find a place to go to get the best info on the hometown team, and Pirates Prospects is that place. Thank you.

      • https://profiles.google.com/113712883335661247632 unfurious

        I live in the Pittsburgh area and this is still where I come first for my Pirates info. :)

  • https://profiles.google.com/116269181038744632419 Shawn Inlow

    THE MARK OF IMPROVEMENT

    Deacs, above, has me thinking about a top of the lineup that goes Polanco, Marte, McCutchen. Boy-oh-boy.

    Who was hitting in the #2 hole last season? Walker? Think about Walker hitting down in the 5-6 area where he should be and think about the difference those top three would make in, for example, one-run games.

    As I recall, the Bucs were good at winning close games last year. I think the hallmark of improvement might show up in 2014 when the Pirates don’t have as many squeakers.

    With that speed and hitting ability up top, I could see the Pirates just hustling their way to an extra run per game.

    Crazy.

    Just…Freakin’…Crazy.

    -Wabbit

  • https://profiles.google.com/116899082423235635777 Monsoon Harvard

    Polanco is a young Dave Parker.
    As a Pirates fan who grew up in the 70’s, I have been awestruck by Polanco since he first came on the scene several years ago.

    Anyone who followed the Pirates in the late 60’s and through the whole 70’s knows that a big hulking, yet speedy, hitter only comes along every 30 years or so. Parker was the last.

    With Polanco, we are thinking the same things that we thought when Parker was coming up through the system – this guy can’t miss.
    I just pray that he stays healthy because injury/poor health is the only thing can stop him from being the dominant hitter he is going to be.

    What a great time it is to be a Pirates fan!

    • SportOMania

      I would not call Polanco hulking like Parker. He does have the same type of tool set but Parker was much thicker. Polanco is built more like a young pre-steroids Barry Bonds or a young Al Oliver.

      • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

        An Al Oliver who will take a walk and has speed and defense. You can put me down for a couple of those.

    • honus1

      I disagree with the Dave Parker comparison. Polanco projects to be a much better defender and to get on base at a consistently higher percentage. This guy could be a 100-walks per season type of player. He may not be a “Joey Votto” but he will be one of the more patient hitters.

  • buster09

    I agree with part of your comment Sport. But,to me,he looks a lot more like Darryl Strawberry than a Bonds or Al Oliver type, Trout is the guy who seems to me to be closer to Dave Parker physically speaking. No matter who he reminds us of in appearance,when he is ready for Pittsburgh,he will only make that Outfield better than most in MLB.

  • https://profiles.google.com/107500598404660809214 Kerry Writtenhouse

    I’ve heard the Strawberry comps more than Parker. I’ve never seen him play live but I’m hoping to catch a few Indy games this year.

  • dallen_71

    Great list Tim. It’s hard to argue with this, but I was surprised that Michael De La Cruz leaped ahead of Brandon Cumpton’s MLB 2.05 ERA in 6 G, 5 Starts in 30.2 innings unless he accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.conner.58 Chuck Conner

    As far as lineups, you put your best OBP in the first 5 slots. More AB’s to get on base. In my lineup Marte would be sandwiched between Polanco and Cutch. Because of Polanco’s speed, Marte get more FB’s and better pitches in front of Andrew. When Hanson (if) comes up, Marte moves to 5th, polanco 2nd and Hanson 1st. When all said and done, in 2016, we could have a lineup of the best 5 in baseball. Plus, the pitchers. I’m old, never thought I would see another Pirate team like the ’60 and ’70. Great news

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      I agree with that, but I’d put Polanco second until Hansen gets here. It’s better to have a lefty bat to take advantage of the 1B holding Marte at first, and ideally Walker could be useful lower in the order.

    • jon6er

      I agree with you on all points but none more than the last comment because I too am old and yearn for the days win we had guys like Clemente, Stargell, Oliver and Parker just to name a few. And the guys who were not superstars were really solid major league talents. In fairness with expansion the past few decades the league became a little diluted.

  • https://profiles.google.com/113712883335661247632 unfurious

    Tim, you should be proud of yourself. Thanks to the work that you and your guys have done here, you have helped develop a legion of fans that are jazzed about our top prospects projected walk rate. How does that happen? BTW, that’s a compliment, not a criticism.