Jorge Polanco: SS International signing '09 (DOB7/5/93)
Born: July 5, 1993 – San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic
Drafted as a SS in the 2009 International class for $700,000 out of the DR by Fred Guerrero.
2010: Twins DSL 18G / 60AB / .250/.309/.283 1SB/3CS
GCL - 34G | 103 AB | .223/.299/.301 | 2SB/4CS
2011: GCL - 51G | 172 AB | .250/.319/.349 | 6SB/4CS
2012: E-ton AppL – 40G / 138 AB / .319/.390/.522
Pre-2012: When drafted in 2009 at the age of 16 for $700,000, Polanco was the epitome of a Latin American middle infielder. Hailing from the ‘cradle of shortstops’ (San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic), he debuted in the US on the day after his 17th birthday and was the Twins #17 prospect in the 2011 BA Prospect Handbook based on the strength of his ‘top-shelf defensive tools at shortstop, with his actions, range, hands and arm strength all rating above average’. His offense, however, was best described by the old Dominican adage that ‘you can’t walk off the island’! Polanco is a switch hitter with excellent contact skills, and had one of the lowest strikeout rates in his first year in the GCL (2010). That is pretty faint praise, and he returned to the GCL in 2011. His second trip around the circuit also yielded pretty pedestrian numbers (.250/.319/.349) and, even in a very down year for Twins prospects, he dropped to #28 in the 2012 BA Prospect handbook. While BA still lauded his defensive work, they indicated he ‘lacks the strength to repeat his swing or defensive actions over the grind of everyday play’. His career appeared to be stalling out except, as pointed out in Seth’s handbook, in “the last month of the year, he improved to .284/.348/.407 in 81 at-bats”. The BA piece concluded with ‘The Twins think they’ll have a player if Polanco gains strength’. Perhaps the Twins weren’t taking a huge leap of faith thinking an 18 year old from the DR might continue to gain strength, but even they must have been surprised at Polanco’s offensive transformation in 2012.
2012: Even though he was still only 18 years old, Polanco started his third season in Rookie ball (albeit at Elizabethton). While there were pleasant signs of an improving offensive game (.323 average), a familiar theme was that he had only 1 walk and 2 strikeouts in 31 ABs. Then, as though he flipped a switch on his 19th birthday, Jorge started taking a bigger swing (20 SO in 105 AB) and has developed into an offensive FORCE. After having only 2 HR in his first 400 ABs, he has had 4 in his last 70! He currently is sporting a triple-slash line of .319/.390/.522 (ranking in the top-10 in all three categories) and was even named the Appy league player of the week for 7/16! Finally, this offensive explosion does not appear to have come at the cost of his excellent control of the strike zone, as his strikeout rate is still below 1 in 6 AB, and he has managed to keep his walk rate at ~10% despite a 70 point jump in BA.
I am amazed that, with all the clamoring by Twins fans about the sad state of minor league middle infielders, Polanco is not mentioned more. He is a true shortstop and was the youngest position player at Elizabethton until Buxton arrived. If he keeps up this level of production, he should crack everyone’s top-20, and is already in my top-10. I can’t wait to read what others (including BA and Seth) have to say about Polanco’s development. It’s always nice to see prospects turning ‘tools’ into ‘skills’!