First Pitch: How Good Would Gregory Polanco Have to Be to Justify Super Two Status?

Gregory Polanco keeps hitting. The top prospect went 4-for-4 tonight with his second home run of the year in just 38 at-bats. On the season he is hitting for a .500 average. It’s only 38 at-bats, so it still falls in the small sample size window, but it’s still impressive.

We aren’t yet to the point in the season where a team can call up a prospect while gaining an extra year of control from that player. Teams would have to wait until April 20th to call up a player and get an extra year of control. However, if a team called up a player on April 20th, he would end up being a Super Two player, giving him an extra year of arbitration.

A month ago I wrote about the cost of Super Two status, pointing out that studies have shown it adds an additional $10-15 M for players who are projected to be impact players in the majors. At this point, I think we can agree that Polanco projects to be an impact player down the line.

The cost of bringing Polanco up now, as opposed to waiting until the second week in June, is that $10-15 M over the long-term. Since the Pirates would be getting Polanco from June to the end of the season under either scenario, that cost only applies to his time over the next two months. So what would Polanco have to do in those two months to justify that expense?

The updated cost of a win above replacement level is up for debate, but most have it between $5-6 M per win. For this purpose, let’s put it at $5.5 M. Polanco would need to be worth between 2-3 WAR in that two month period to justify his future $10-15 M expense. Over a full season, that 2-3 WAR pace per two months would need to amount to a 6-9 WAR season. Last year there were only 12 hitters in baseball who had a WAR of 6.0 or better.

But that’s if Polanco is taking over for a replacement level player. He’s not. Travis Snider is currently doing well, and if we extrapolate his early season success over the course of a full season, you get a 1.4 WAR. And you might doubt that Snider can do this, but I don’t think you can argue for calling Polanco up based on a small sample size, then suggest Snider won’t continue because of a small sample size.

Polanco needs a 2-3 WAR over the next two months to justify the $10-15 M Super Two cost. But if you factor in what the Pirates are projected to get from Snider during those months, you would need to add about half a win. That means Polanco would need to be a 2.5-3.5 WAR player in the next two months to justify the extra Super Two costs. Once again, if we stretch that out over a full season, Polanco would be a 7.5-10.5 WAR player.

Basically, for Polanco to be worth the extra Super Two amount, he would have to play like the 2013 Carlos Gomez (7.6 WAR) over the next two months if you’re using the $10 M value; or like Mike Trout in 2013 (10.4 WAR) if you’re using the $15 M value.

A realistic scenario for Polanco would be for him to match Andrew McCutchen’s production in 2009. McCutchen had a 3.3 WAR in four months. That’s about a 1.7 WAR over a two month period. If you subtract the half a win Snider is on pace to produce during that time, you get 1.2 WAR extra out of Polanco over that two month period. At $5.5 M per win, that would put Polanco at $6.6 M in value over those two months, and this is assuming he has the same value McCutchen had when he came up. But obviously that value would fall short of the projected $10-15 M extra cost for a Super Two player.

Links and Notes

**The Adjustments Andrew Lambo is Making After His Slow Start. Our new Indianapolis writer, Ryan Palencer, takes a look at what Andrew Lambo has been working on since being optioned to Triple-A.

**Prospect Watch: Four Hits, Including a Homer For Gregory Polanco, Heredia Hurt

**Luis Heredia Pulled From His Start With Shoulder Discomfort

**Minor League Schedule: Rodriguez and Irwin Set For Sunday

**Draft Prospect Watch: Monte Harrison Moves Into Pirates Range

**Minor Moves: Vin Mazzaro Added to Indianapolis

**Prospect Highlights: Gregory Polanco’s Two RBI Infield Single to First Base

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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  • bmcferren

    We can always trade him – we do have 7 other OF prospects in the system that could take his place one day

    • elgaupo

      I’ve been advocating for this but have been crucified.

      PNC RF is such an easy position to play that Polanco has much more value to another team where he could play CF.

      6.5 years of 5+ WAR at minimum levels of pay could return virtually anyone in a one for one trade.

      • johndw28

        Sorry but I will also crucify you. I stream the Indy games, watched a good bit of Dominican winter leagues and think you have to be absolutely nuts to trade Polanco. He seems to improve every day and there’s at least 81 games a year outside of PNC park where having a centerfielder in right field is a huge asset. I think you minimize the improvement he will bring to our defense at PNC as well. Who are you going to trade him for that would be both fair value and not have an outrageous salary?

        • elgaupo

          Jurickson Profar. Manny Machado. Francisco Lindor. Addison Russell.

          You wouldn’t do any of these?

      • indybucfan

        There is nothing wasted in having Polanco in right. He has the arm plus having three center fielder’s to run things down will make the gaps that much smaller. Imagine cutch being able to shade towards the notch. I can’t see where this would be a bad thing.

      • Ian Rothermund

        That’s idiotic.

        • KauaiCoffee

          Depending on the other side of the trade, it might not be idiotic. If they Bucs could trade Polanco to the Red Sox for Garin Cecchini and Mookie Betts, that would not seem idiotic to me.

        • elgaupo

          that’s what everyone said about the mcclouth trade

  • emjayinTN

    Snider is playing well and he and Marte set the table for a Pirates last night on a hit and run in the 8th of a tie game to put runners at 1st and 3rd with only 1 out and ‘Cutch coming to the plate. He failed to get the run in, fouling out behind the plate. No, the players/pitchers we were all concerned with – Snider, Ish, Sanchez, and Volquez are all doing much better than expected, and I would rather Gregory Polanco comes up as just what he is – a talented prospect, and not as some sort of salvation for a team that seems to be running in place at this point.

    • emjayinTN

      BTW, the double steal attempted by the Pirates was run to perfection, but the defensive effort of the Brewers was also perfection. After ‘Cutch pops out behind the plate, Snider tags and runs to 2B hoping to coax a throw from the Catcher to 2B and allowing Marte to score the go-ahead run while he gets caught in a rundown. Lucroy throws the ball toward 2B but Segura closes the distance and receives it perfectly about 3 steps in front of 2B as Marte starts home. Because Lucroy was behind the plate fielding the popup, the pitcher had run in and was covering the plate. The return throw from Segura to the plate was perfect in that it was right on the dirt on the 3B side of the plate, and Marte slid right into the glove. If Segura does not see the play and does not close distance, if the throw from Lucroy to Segura is off, or the pitcher forgets to cover the plate, or if the throw from Segura to the plate is anywhere but perfectly placed, Marte scores the go-ahead run. Great baseball – lousy result!

      • jon6er

        What? Can’t be perfection for the Pirates because they didn’t score and Marte can’t be hugging third base when the “double steal” begins.

        • Ian Rothermund

          I think it was executed well enough. I just hate seeing the bat taken out of Pedro’s hands with runners on base. That’s more of a crime than Marte not being an extra step off the bag when the play initiated.

      • leowalter

        If anyone made a mistake emjay,it was Marte,who stood right at third base waiting for the play to develop….which you can not do. You have to be at least a step or two toward home and gaining some momentum for the break.

  • israelp

    On the other hand, if that one win gets you into the playoffs or an extra home playoff game, it is certainly worth that extra money. Pays for itself, no? But you can never know if exactly that is what you need.

  • Patrick L

    So does this change his time line? From Fan graphs it says that Super two status was changed The Super Two cutoff used to stand at 17%, but got changed to 22% in the new CBA negotiations. This means that if a team wants to keep a player in the minors until after the Super Two cutoff, they will have to keep that player in the minors for even longer than before. Considering that the cutoff used to fall sometime in June — it varied from year to year, as the 17% cutoff isn’t tied to a specific date — it will likely end up being in July going forward.

  • robshelb

    .

    I’m part of the crowd that/who still thinks this isn’t an easy decision — one way or the other. (And sometimes it’s difficult to decide if such a lack of certitude is a virtue or a vice.)

    Yes, it’s hard to dismiss the researched numbers culminating in the notion of an increased $10-15 million cost. However, this has always assumed that a longer, extension contract will not be forged between the baseball club and the player in question before the six-year time-frame is finished, completed, and paid for.

    Moreover, often in such discussions, while the $10-15 million additional cost is frequently mentioned, the possible additional *benefits* are down-played or overlooked.

    There was a really good fangraphs article a few weeks ago (which we’ve probably all read already) that doesn’t fall into this short-coming. The cons, AND the pro’s, of bringing Polanco up early.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/tough-decisions-gregory-polanco/

    It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, an easy decision one way or the other to keep Mr. Polanco in Indy until safely past Super-2 eligibility. Personally, I’m 100% in tune with this fangraphs article. And especially with its conclusion —

    The decision to promote a top prospect is a difficult one. It’s hard enough if the franchise is only worried about player development and value in the current season. Adding service time considerations complicates the math. I wish I could tell you what the right decision is. And I really wish the answer was to promote him immediately, because I can’t wait to watch this guy play. For the time being, though, everybody needs to wait for a little more information.

    Yeppers, the notion of “waiting for a little more information” to me makes sense. Let’s see what the broader considerations look like two weeks from now, at which point there may (or may not) be a lot more compelling argument in favor of bringing El Coffee up. Me, at this point, I’m not willing to utterly and irrevocably dismiss the possible over-riding advantages of going that early call-up route.

    There might be more to this issue (or there should be) than merely $/WAR values. (As the fangraphs article so admirably points out.) Who knows, amortized over six years, maybe the additional $10-15 million is worth it. (Again, as the fangraphs article puts it, taking into account this season and future seasons as well.)

    Or maybe not.

    So let’s just wait and see how everything seems to be lining up on or around April 28th. At which point perhaps reasonable arguments will be possible on *both* sides of this decision.
    .

  • DG Lewis

    You also have to consider time value of money. The $10-$15M is paid out starting in 2017, while the benefit accrues this year.

  • sweetleb

    bring him up, 4/21/14 if he looks like the real deal lock him up over the winter at marte numbers. Also try to move some of tabata contract and it won’t cost as much as you think and with snider as a true 4th outfielder we would a leftie bat off the bench. lineup vs righties – marte, walker, cutch, pedro, polanco, martin, ishi/ lambo- mercer. see looks like a better line-up.

  • KauaiCoffee

    In a purely salary-WAR analysis that sounds accurate. But it might be worth factoring in the value of a single extra win on the playoff chances of a team in the Bucs’ (playoff-bubble) situation. Making the playoffs has a cash value in excess of $10 to $15 million. Also, at the Pirates stage in the success cycle, it might be worth investing in winning this year. With Martin, Grilli and Liriano expected to leave as free agents after this season, I would think the Pirates should consider this year as their best chance for a title.

    My thought is they should have offered Polanco an 8 year $45m contract. He is almost certain to be worth every penny and many more. No need to worry about arbitration then.

  • lonleylibertarian

    The more interesting question is becoming what is your strategy for bringing up Polanco – some have suggested trying to trade him – that does not seem to be a good alternative. But if he is the second coming of Dave Parker or Cutch or whomever, how are you going to make room for him if Snider keeps hitting. BTW Lambo is doing fine at Indy – so what do you do about him – hitting lots of doubles – and the power potential is bigger than Ishikawa or Gabby.

    Teams need to be thinking two to three steps ahead – not sure we are seeing that from the Pirates FO