Morning Report: Tracking the Progress of Tito Polo Through the Years

Tito Polo had three hits on Saturday and should have had a fourth one according to West Virginia’s announcer Adam Marco, who noted a three-base error during one of Polo’s  at-bats was hit hard enough off the third baseman’s glove, that Polo was able to get to third base on the play. Even without the hit, he is batting .346 through eight games. He is starting to make a name for himself and could be this year’s breakout player at West Virginia. A lot of people are just learning his name, but if you’ve followed the site closely, you know that he has been talked about for over three years.

The first mention of Tito Polo here was his signing, which was part of a group of five players from Colombia. There was actually a sixth player signed shortly before that named Richard Mitchell, who moved up from the DSL this year and is a pitcher to watch. Polo was described as a center fielder, who is a strong hitter, with plus speed and an average arm.

In the 2012 DSL season recap, we mentioned that the 18-year-old Polo stole 17 bases and had the fourth best OPS among the two DSL teams, back when the Pirates had two teams in the Dominican. During a mid-season update, it was noted that Polo was just starting to see more playing time and he was doing well. His season didn’t get him listed on the DSL top ten prospects list, but he was among the others to watch. From there, Polo went to Colombia to play winter ball, where he saw very limited time against advanced competition.

In 2013, Polo was named to the DSL All-Star team,  At the break, he was batting .302 with 18 stolen bases. He started to look like one of the best prospects for the DSL Pirates, except he was slowed down in the second half by a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to miss games three different times.

The hamstring injury concerns and some plate patience issues got him ranked #6 in our top prospects list from the DSL after the 2013 season, but the reports were good enough to get him ranked higher. His performance got him invited to the Fall Instructional League and then during his second season in the Colombian Winter League, he saw a little more playing time than the previous year.

In 2014, Polo attended his first Spring Training and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League. This is the first time that the scouting reports for Polo weren’t from other sources, he was seen by multiple people from the site. In the GCL, we got the first video of Polo, which was shared in this article about his chance to be a five-tool outfielder. Shortly after that, Polo had a strong game and we had another highlight article so people could get a better look at him.

Polo’s season in the GCL got him rated as the 5th best prospect on the team. With the move up to the SAL this year, that actually pushed him to fourth on that list and the off-season he had compared to Michael de la Cruz(ranked #4 previously) is what got them to switch places. Polo played in Colombia again and for the first time, he was seeing regular playing time and doing well. When we call the competition in Colombia advanced for Polo, it’s because the average level of play would be equal to High-A ball, while he is “only” making the jump to Low-A this year. De la Cruz on the other hand, took off from playing this winter and at one point, he had lost ten pounds, when adding ten pounds should have been his off-season goal.

That leads us to where Polo is today, a player that skipped two levels to get to full-season ball at the age of twenty. He is off to a fast start, showing a strong bat and some great speed on the bases and in the outfield. It’s still early, but the results so far are strong. Polo has been mentioned as a player with a lot of potential over the years and we are starting to see it on a regular basis against strong competition.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Brewers by a 6-2 score on Saturday. They go for the sweep this afternoon, while also trying to reach the .500 mark for the first time this year. In his last outing, Gerrit Cole went six innings against the Detroit Tigers, allowing one earned run, while striking out eight batters. Cole faced Milwaukee two times last year, posting a 2.63 ERA in 13.2 innings. Despite the good outings, the Pirates lost both games.

In the minors, both Nick Kingham and Cody Dickson get their third starts, the first pitchers in the system to reach that mark. Kingham had a solid first start, while his second outing was rough. Dickson had the opposite results, struggling in his opener, while throwing five shutout innings in his last start. Zack Dodson goes for Altoona and John Sever goes for West Virginia. They have combined for 12 shutout innings this year, six apiece. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (5-6) vs Brewers (2-9) 1:35 PM
Probable starter: Gerrit Cole (3.27 ERA, 4:14 BB/SO, 11.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (4-6) @ Louisville (5-5) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (3.60 ERA, 2:10 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (5-4) vs Akron (4-5) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zack Dodson (0.00 ERA, 1:1 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (5-5) vs Jupiter (3-7) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cody Dickson (3.38 ERA, 3:4 BB/SO, 8.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (6-3) @ Lexington (5-5) 2:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: John Sever (0.00 ERA, 1:8 BB/SO, 6.0 IP)

Highlights

From Friday, Jordan Luplow collects his first hit for the West Virginia Power, driving home a run with a double. He has played just three games(including last night’s game). Luplow switched from outfield to third base in Spring Training and has made two errors in three chances.

Since we don’t get many West Virginia highlights, here is another one. Chase Simpson homered on Thursday, his first of the season. He homered seven times for Jamestown last year.

Recent Transactions

4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.

4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.

4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.

4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.

4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/14: Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power. Erik Forgione assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/14: Collin Balester assigned to Altoona.

4/13: Pirates release Jonathan Sandfort.

4/13: Francisco Liriano reinstated from paternity list. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

4/12: Chris Stewart assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/12: Justin Topa placed on Bradenton disabled list. Matt Benedict assigned to Bradenton from Altoona

4/11: Pedro Florimon clears waivers. Assigned to Indianapolis.

4/11: Stolmy Pimentel claimed off waiver by the Texas Rangers.

4/9: Chris Stewart assigned to Altoona on rehab. Jaff Decker assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/7: Pirates release Matt Nevarez, Andrew Dennis and Dwight Childs.

4/5: Pirates recall Rob Scahill, designate Stolmy Pimentel and Pedro Florimon for assignment.

4/5: Pirates place Charlie Morton, Brandon Cumpton, Jaff Decker, Justin Sellers and Chris Stewart on the disabled list.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, all of them have played within the last 30 years. There is also a trade of note from the last World Series team in franchise history. On this date in 1979, the Pirates traded shortstop Frank Taveras to the New York Mets in exchange for shortstop Tim Foli and minor league pitcher Greg Field. Foli was a big part of the 1979 squad and stuck around until the 1981 season, though he did come back briefly during the 1985 season. He hit .291 while setting career highs with 70 runs scored and 65 RBIs. In 587 plate appearances that year, he struck out just 14 times. Foli hit .333 in both the NLCS and the World Series.

The players born on this date are: Pitcher Zach Duke(2005-10), pitcher Joe Beimel(2001-03, 2011), pitcher Dennys Reyes(2003) and outfielder R.J. Reynolds(1985-90)

Two Opening Days from long ago of note. On this date in 1900, Sam Leever made his first Opening Day start, losing 3-0 to the St Louis Cardinals. Leever’s 194 wins with the Pirates ties him with Babe Adams for the second most in franchise history.

Ten years earlier, Pittsburgh defeated the Cleveland Spiders by a 3-2 score. They would win just 22 more games the entire season. The 1890 Pirates(then known as the Alleghenys) finished the season with a 23-113 record, the second worst record in Major League history.

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