Why Gregory Polanco Feels Like a More Complete Outfielder Now

Gregory Polanco is not a prospect who has a lot of flaws in his game. He hits for average, has some power, good plate discipline, has a ton of speed, runs the bases well, and has a strong arm and a ton of range in the outfield. If there’s one flaw I saw when watching him during the 2013 season, it was his struggles with running routes.

Polanco covers a ton of ground in the outfield, and does fine going left to right. However, he struggled at times with balls that were hit straight away to center field, and with balls that were hit behind him. A guy with his speed and range shouldn’t have any problems going back to the wall to make a catch. So in his final few weeks in Bradenton, manager Frank Kremblas positioned Polanco in shallow center field, forcing him to hustle back to the wall as fast as he could, thus getting used to what he would have to do to make plays that were behind him.

“That helped me a lot,” Polanco said. “The first time he moved me very shallow, I was surprised, and I felt uncomfortable. One week from that I felt a lot better, and that made me comfortable. That helped me a lot in the outfield.”

The results did come quickly. By the time he was ready to move up to Altoona, Polanco was making plays in the outfield that he was having trouble with earlier in the season. He was using his speed and range as he should, and was looking like a strong defensive center fielder.

“I feel like more complete of an outfielder now,” Polanco said of the work.

The 2014 season is most likely going to see Polanco’s debut in the majors. He will start the season in Triple-A, but could make it to the majors by mid-June, depending on how well he does against the talent in Triple-A. He just finished an off-season that saw him dominate the Dominican Winter League, which is pretty much the equivalent of Triple-A pitching. Despite his skills in center field, he will most likely play right field in the majors, since Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte currently occupy center and left field, respectively. That’s not a new position for Polanco, who has played right field before.

“During batting practice I go right, sometimes I go left. Two years ago I played right field,” Polanco said. “Almost all of my life I’ve been playing right field. It’s not uncomfortable playing in the corner for me, because I’ve been playing a lot in the corner.”

Right field in PNC Park doesn’t have a lot of space, which limits Polanco’s range. That range should be an asset for right-center, where the outfield extends deeper to the left of the Clemente Wall. It should also help the Pirates with their planned outfield shifts, since Polanco could cover more than just the right field area, allowing Andrew McCutchen to fade closer to the notch, where there is much more ground to cover.

Polanco has also been making strides the last few years in adding muscle to his frame, which has resulted in some added power in the field. There is still room for him to add more muscle, which could result in more power.

“That’s my plan right now,” Polanco said, while adding that he had been working out in Santo Domingo during the off-season. Here is a photo he posted to his Instagram account.

Trabaja duro y de corazón.. Que Dios te premiara con algo maravilloso! "Dios siempre mira el esfuerzo del hombre." #Amén#workhard#playhard#2014bigyear#vamoalla

Polanco said that his focus was to add a few more pounds and more muscle. The fear with an outfielder bulking up is that it could take away from his range. Polanco can still cover a lot of ground, and won’t be expected to cover a ton of ground anyway, even if he’s asked to cover more than just right field at PNC. Any added power would be a bonus, especially for a team like the Pirates that currently lacks power at the corner spots.

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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  • honusty

    Tim, Any chance Travis Snyder plays some 1B this spring? Just in case he shows he can hit MLB pitching he will need a position to play after Mr. Polanco arrives.

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

      No. Too many assumptions involved. Snider needs to hit first. Polanco needs to arrive. First base still needs to be open. No need to have Snider focusing on first base right now.

  • honusty

    BTW cool Polanco pics. Looking forward to mid-June.

    • The Masked robshelb

      .

      honusty,

      Mid-June ??

      Negatory.

      Mark down April 27th on your calendar !!!

      Horray !!!
      .

      • Cato the Elder

        Nah, mark down June 26th on your calendar. Horray!!!

      • 2014orbust

        Robshelb,

        Hope you are right… I am goon to the dodger series at the end of May. Would love to see poblano!

        • 2014orbust

          Dam spell check!

  • johndw28

    Holy hell Polanco doesn’t look like 170 pounds anymore. He looks like he has filled out even more from his recent stint in Dominican League.

  • deacs

    I noticed not much was mentioned about his vertical leaping ability. Can he rob a HR in RF? Maybe Spiderman it up the wall?

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

      My expectation is that he will rob at least 3 HR at the Clemente wall this year.

  • Josh13

    kind of random question,
    How is his English or does he use a translator

  • JT Crown

    He has truly bulked up, perhaps that will help in his hitting for power struggles, that the experts labeled him early on

  • skliesen

    Since I live in metro Atlanta, I’m pretty stoked the Indianapolis Indians are coming to play the Gwinnett Braves for 4 games in mid May. Can’t wait to see Polanco, Taillon and Kingham in action. And hopefully just a preview since Pirates don’t come to Atlanta until September and it’s likely they’ll all be in the show by then.

    • deacs

      Do we know where Kingham will wind up to start the season? Is the AAA rotation too crowded for him?

      • Mr. Goodkat

        Taillon, Irwin, Cumpton, Locke(?)

        Who else? Not sure I would put anyone else ahead of a legit prospect…If he’s ready he’ll go to AAA.

  • Mr. Goodkat

    Does anyone know if theres been any research done regarding Rookie Success: Breaking Camp w/ the Team vs. Mid/Late Season Call Up?

    Be interesting to see how jumping from the minors straight to the Opening Day Roster affects a players first 150 ABs (and whole season), as opposed to getting called up in September the year before or in June/July after building up some reps/confidence in AAA.

    Obviously there are examples of both that jump to mind, but it would be cool to see if there’s any real correlation one way or the other.

    • joe g.

      Agree, it would be great to see a right up on it,