The Pittsburgh Pirates handed out one of the biggest signing bonuses in franchise history to sign outfielder Shalin Polanco.
He made his way to the US last year, playing in the Florida Complex League, eventually making it to Bradenton as a 19-year-old this season.
Still being young and raw, it wasn’t too much a surprise that Polanco struggled out the gate. Strikeouts have been a big issue, with a 36.4% rate in the month of April, and he batted just .186 with an OPS of .596.
With May almost over, Polanco is still having his struggles but is taking steps in the right direction.
The strikeout rate is under 30%, which has brought his overall mark to about 31%. The average isn’t ideal, but between the ball into play more, and a slightly below average BABIP of .250 speaks to a potential jump up.
After a horrible series against Lakeland earlier in the month where he went 2-for-21, Polanco has picked up hits in 11-of-the-last-13 games he’s played in (11-of-12 when you take out the game he pinched ran in).
Maybe the thing most impressive thing about Polanco has been just how hard he has hitting the ball, especially when factoring in his age.
— Anthony Murphy (@__Murphy88) May 28, 2023
Sunday he hit his sixth home run of the season, and has put up these exit velocity numbers on the year.
86.89 average exit velocity
102.77 90th percentile exit velocity
35% hard hit rate
31.25% sweet spot rate
8.75% barrel rate
20% line drive rate
The average exit velocity, hard hit rate, and sweet spot rate are all right at major league average, and his barrel rate is above.
Barrel rates measures the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle, so at 19-years-old he is already better than the average major leaguer at truly driving the ball into play.
He’s also flashed some speed as well, stealing four bases in the month of May, giving him six on the season.
How the season has started for Polanco reminds me a bit of something Jonathan Johnston said last year about Rodolfo Nolasco, another upside outfielder with plenty of raw tools trying to put everything together.
He mentioned how some players you have to take a step back and look how things progress over the long-term. So while the numbers still aren’t quite where you need them, if you can step back and see the right kind of progress throughout the season, you know he will be heading in the right direction.
— Sean Sullivan finished out the week with a total pitching line of 11 IP, 8 H, 4 ER (3.27 ERA), 2 BB, 10 K. He couldn’t continue his string of outings completing at least six innings pitched, but was impressive regardless.
We’ve seen the importance of good pitching depth this season, with two of the original rotation members hurt, and a significant minor league option also out for the season.
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) May 28, 2023
Sullivan doesn’t have the highest ceiling in the world, but the floor is becoming more and more evident as a potential back of the rotation starter.
— A week ago I would have said Luis Ortiz would end up being the odd man out whenever the team returned as close to full health as possible.
Now, not to say that I’m giving up on a 23-year-old former Top-100 prospect (Roansy Contreras), but it’s starting to feel like there is more of an intrigue factor with Ortiz at this point, especially as he continues to implement the sinker more.
Contreras has effectively become a two-pitch pitcher, but only one of them has been effective so far this season.
I’m still unsure of where I see Ortiz landing right now, but it does feel like he has the highest upside of anyone in the upper levels not named Mitch Keller right now, with a pretty safe floor of a really good high-leverage reliever.
At the very least, there wasn’t much left for Ortiz to solve in Triple-A, especially with how effective the slider was there.
Daily Video Rundown
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) May 28, 2023
Connor Scott usually makes it on here for his defensive work, but hits a bases-clearing triple here.
Thomas Harrington worked a very fast six innings in his last start, here’s a look back at it.+ posts
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.