Pirates Prospects Daily: What’s Next For Shalin Polanco

Say whatever you want about the Pittsburgh Pirates and them spending money at the major league level, there is no denying what they’ve invested in the draft and their international spending.

One such instance was when they signed Shalin Polanco to a $2.35 million signing bonus, which was the second highest total given out at the time.

The toolsy outfielder was rated as the 11th best international free agent by MLB Pipeline during the 2020-21 signing period.

He remained in the Dominican Summer League in 2021, where he struggled, slashing .204/.284/.338 with a 77 wRC+. He did post a decent walk rate of 10.2%, but did strike out 25% of his 176 plate appearances.

Polanco hit three home runs, totaling 12 extra-base hits, stealing six bases and driving in 22 runs.

Despite the struggles, the Pirates sent him stateside for the 2022 season, playing in 37 games in the Florida Complex League, posting a much better looking slash of .250/.324/.371, hitting three home runs once again — in fewer plate appearances — but did see his strikeout rate climb a bit (27%), with his walks dropping as well (8.1 BB%).

So what’s next for Polanco as we enter the 2023 season?

Polanco was recently pegged as a potential breakout prospect in the Pirates system by MLB Pipeline, which isn’t really surprising due to his skillset.

He also doesn’t turn 19 until February, so he’s conceivably young enough to spend another year in the FCL so he can continue to work on making more consistent contact. 

The Pirates have, however, been very aggressive over the last couple of seasons when it comes to some of their younger, higher upside prospects.

Two years ago, Maikol Escotto, Dariel Lopez, and Alexander Mojica were among names to make their full season debuts as teenagers. Lopez played a key part in the middle of the lineup as the Marauders won the division in 2021.

This past season, Carlos Jimenez, Bubba Chandler, and Anthony Solometo played the majority of the season with the Marauders before they turned 20. Their first round pick in 2022, Termarr Johnson, was pushed to Bradenton at 18-years-old with very little time in the FCL.

Regardless of where Polanco starts the year in 2023, it will be a big year for the young outfielder. With so much invested in him, the Pirates will be patient, but at some point he will need of that raw talent to start translating onto the field.

Highlight of the Day

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.

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SBRO

So much physical and mental maturation takes place (or doesn’t!!!) at his age, it feels like his placement is going to be driven by organizational philosophy more than what the player looked like the last time we saw him. The Pirates under Cherington (and post-winnowing of the short season leagues) strike me as being a bit on the aggressive side. Plenty of guys started at Bradenton and were reassigned back to the FCL mid-year. Feels like that’s what might happen with Polanco (the Bradenton assignment, not the reassignment to FCL hopefully).

BonDrone

If he makes it to the Majors, they should give him the number 25 so all those with Gregory Polanco jerseys can break them out again and stores could remove them from the clearance section.

Last edited 21 days ago by BonDrone
john_fluharty

Disregarding whether it actually fits him or not LOL

leefieux

That sweet swing coupled with some maturity has me cautiously optimistic.

Wilbur Miller

He’s gotten slowly but surely better nearly every month as a pro, so there’s that. Looks to me like a legit CF, too.

emjayinTN

Obviously there was something the MLB scouts saw to make him the 11th best prospect in the IFA signings that particular year. Primarily a CF, but also played the corners also in 2022. Not the best fielding percentages, but also played the whole year as a young 18 year old.

Possibly one of our best MiLB Managers is at Bradenton – Jonathan Johnston. He and Jesus Castillo (turned 19 in July) need to be at Bradenton to start the 2023 season. Challenge them. Everything I read about Polanco is that he is a hard worker and a leader. Point him in the right direction and tell him we may need a CF quicker than we thought. And Castillo lit it up last year on both sides of the ball

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