Gregory Polanco Scouting Report (2014)
With a triple slash line of .356/.420/.576, the baseball world is excited about Gregory Polanco‘s MLB debut. As Pittsburgh patiently await the “Super-Two” deadline to pass, the team’s .667 combined OPS from the right field position weighs heavily in their 23-27 record. Is Polanco a savior? Or, will he be like so many other young hitters and struggle initially? Just 22, the outfielder is MLB ready at an age when superstars reach the show. And with Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen manning the other two outfield spots, Pirates fans are ready for a Polanco promotion and the completion of baseball’s most athletic outfield trio.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Gregory Polanco has a thick lower half which points to his adding additional size at full physical maturity. Lean through the shoulders, his upper body is loose and explosive. In time, he’ll fill out through the shoulders, but won’t develop a tight swing because of it. Already an imposing figure on a baseball field, a 240 pound version of himself would trade power for speed which is an acceptable outcome given his middle-of-the-order potential.
As an athlete, Gregory Polanco is long and wiry, but awkward at times — especially in right field. Throughout a double header, it was as if a sniper was on the roof of the Gwinnett Braves’ stadium since Polanco fell down chasing after every ball in the gap. At the plate is where his athleticism “clicks”. The hands are explosive. Torque generated through the hips projects for plus power. And when underway, Gregory Polanco is a long strider capable of plus run times.
Across three games and a dozen plate appearances, Polanco accumulated five hits including three doubles. Every hard hit ball was to the right side and the left-handed hitter presented as pull happy. In fact, his only flailing swings were at soft stuff on the outer half. From an on-the-field standpoint, it’s a legitimate reason for keeping Gregory Polanco in Triple-A for the time being while he makes adjustments. In looking back at the game logs, Polanco pummeled opposing pitcher’s in games one and three, but tallied an 0-5 in the game Cody Martin pitched. Martin is a fringe prospect with an upper-80’s velocity and the ability to fade fastballs and change-ups to the outer black. He provided a blueprint on how to attack the top-10 overall prospect.
Gregory Polanco’s set up includes wagging hands and the cocking of his elbow. Eventually, a more standard hand position, resulting in a shorter load will make sense. Bringing the elbow into his side is a reminder to keep the hands inside the baseball and shorten swing length. This is a positive and can remain a part of his pre-swing ritual. When Polanco loads his hands, the bat wraps behind his head on occasion. At present, easy plus bat speed and natural bat-to-ball abilities more than make up for any minor issues with his swing. However, the accumulation of minor tweaks can cause a batter to cheat against velocity, leaving one susceptible to off-speed. Obviously, tremendous production and vast improvements over 2013 point to Gregory Polanco’s tools meeting technique much faster than anticipated.
On rare occasion, a batter swings, leaving the perception of a bat head which lingers in the strike zone for days. Polanco has this ability and it affords him an excellent feel for contact. Middle in, the left-handed hitter doesn’t miss pitches, driving everything to the pull side. On multiple occasions, scorched line drives left Gregory Polanco’s bat and pounded the outfield wall. With a flat plane swing, it will take time for the outfielder to add backspin and lift. Once he does, home run totals will spike, resulting in a plus power projection.
In right field, Polanco was less than expected. As a player rumored to have the ability to play center field, he presented more as a quality left fielder at the Major League level. On multiple batted balls, poor route running caused the outfield to flop for balls many outfielders would have fielded cleanly. Whether a lack of body control or an attempt to make up for lost ground, the end result was messy. And when Polanco did field balls cleanly, long arm action and average arm strength resulted in fringe average throws from the outfield. Would it make sense to allow Gregory Polanco to man right field and flip him with Marte over the winter? Maybe, since the Pirates current left field has a stronger throwing arm and the athleticism to play anywhere in the outfield.
After stealing 40 bases in 2012 and another 38 in 2013, Polanco has 10 in 50 Indianapolis Indians games. On pace for 28 stolen bases, physical maturation is meeting Triple-A catcher’s with better throwing arms and the pressures of hitting in the middle of a batting order. At the Major League level, Polanco presents as more of a 20-30 stolen base threat than player who’ll develop into an elite base stealer.
In six years scouting baseball prospects, few have been as impressive as Gregory Polanco. Chris Blessing’s scouting report from 2012 echoes the sentiment. Blessed with the size and athleticism to be a star at the Major League level, even more important has been his ability to adjust and make huge leaps in on field production. Once the left-handed hitter learns to hit the other way, he’ll be a perennial All-Star with the ability to hit .285-plus with 25-plus home runs and 15-plus stolen bases annually. Last season players with this skill set included Mike Trout, Carlos Gomez and Hunter Pence. From a statistical standpoint, Pence’s 27 home run, 22 stolen base 2013 serves as a statistical comparison for what Polanco can become.
Tool Present Future Projected Role All-Star Level Left Fielder Hitting Ability 55 65 Power 50 65 Speed 65 55 Fielding Ability 35 45 Arm 45 45
Owning Gregory Polanco
Entering 2014, Oscar Taveras was considered a better prospect than Polanco. After seeing both, the Pirates prospect IS the more valuable commodity. In fantasy baseball, players underestimate the value of a player who can chip in double-digit steals while posting strong counting stats in other 5×5 categories. Those steals add considerable value over the equivalent player who registers a handful of stolen bases. Given the injury issues (Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley) and prospect graduations (Xander Bogaerts, Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Dariel Abreu), Gregory Polanco is the top prospect in baseball. With any luck, he’ll be a franchise player to pair with McCutchen for years to come.
10 Jun 2014 / Mike Newman / 1
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