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  • TD Top Prospects: #8 Jorge Polanco

    Signed in the same year and from the same Dominican academy as Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco has largely been overshadowed ever since starting his pro career.

    Sano received a franchise-record $3.5 million signing bonus and has had a documentary crew exhaustively following his rise to the majors. Polanco signed for "only" $750,000 and didn't experience the type of immediate success that his uber-talented fellow countryman did.

    But, with back-to-back stand-out seasons under his belt, Polanco is quickly beginning to command attention in a system where competition for it is fierce.

    Minnesota Twins prospect Jorge Polanco


    An Inauspicious Start

    When Polanco came to the United States, he carried with him a sterling defensive reputation. Baseball America's prospect guru John Manuel ranked him as the best defensive infielder in Minnesota's system in January of 2010, before he had played a single game stateside.

    Polanco's aptitude with the glove was never in question, but his bat was a point of uncertainty. The Twins acquired him as an undersized 16-year-old without much punch; in his first year, while splitting time between the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League, he managed only eight extra-base hits (one homer) in 52 games, slugging .294.

    Spending his second year in the GCL, Polanco once again managed only one home run and finished with a .668 OPS. But at season's end he had only been 18 for about a month.

    The word "kid" is thrown around too often when referring to young baseball players and prospects, but that's what he was. And unlike Sano, who has been an imposing figure since he was about 12, Polanco looked it.

    The Power Arrives

    Here's the thing about kids: they grow. Polanco isn't going to be confused with Sano any time soon, but he has added bulk since first joining the organization, and it shows in his numbers.

    In his first two seasons, Polanco slugged .322. In 2012, he went to Elizabethton and slugged .514, racking up 22 extra-base hits in 51 games.

    In 2013, he made the move to full-season ball and enjoyed another stellar campaign at Cedar Rapids. Among qualifying second basemen in the Midwest League, Polanco was the youngest, but he ranked second in batting average (.308) and second in OPS (.813).

    Polanco's offensive transformation has been truly remarkable. Four years ago he could barely hit the ball out of the infield; last year he tallied 32 doubles and 10 triples as a 19-year-old in Single-A, ranking among the top 10 in the MWL in both runs scored and RBI.

    A switch-hitter who's always been known for good plate discipline and very low strikeout rates, Polanco is becoming a truly potent threat at the plate now that he's driving the ball more frequently.

    Where Does He Fit?

    That's a good question. Polanco has split time between shortstop and second base at every level, but the majority of his recent time has come on the right side and -- considering his lack of size and arm strength -- there's almost no chance he'll play short regularly in the majors.

    At second, his skills are highly lauded. But of course the Twins currently have an uncharacteristic stock of talent at that position.

    With Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario both in front of him, Polanco would appear to have plenty of time to work his way through the system.

    When Will He Arrive?

    Despite starting their careers at the same time, and being just months apart in age, Sano and Polanco have followed very different paths.

    The former defies convention as an elite prospect and perhaps one of the greatest talents the Dominican Republic has produced. The latter is on a far more traditional progression, meaning that while Sano may be threatening for a big-league spot early this season, Polanco's ETA is much farther down the line.

    Ascending one level per year would place him in the majors around 2017. Unless he flat-out dominates in Ft. Myers and/or New Britain, I think it's unlikely we'd see that timetable accelerated much.

    But if he does come out raking at High-A this spring, he may join Rosario as a fast-tracked second base prospect who can drive the ball. That would put the Twins in an interesting position in a couple years, especially if Dozier doesn't falter.
    This article was originally published in blog: TD Top Prospects: #8 Jorge Polanco started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I like him better if he can be a SS. I think he's a bit high on the ranking right now as a 2B... We will see. I hear he's going to be a primary SS this season.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Am hoping Dozier ups his batting average by 30 or so points which would make him above average for a middle infielder. Any chance of him moving back to shortstop in the future? Log jam wouldn't be a bad thing. If Rosario makes it he can always move to outfield and move Arcia to DH if necessary. Defensive outfield of Rosario, Hicks and Buxton would be elite. If Hicks doesn't make it then more rooms still for Rosario.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      I don't think his path is that difficult as a 2B. From what I understand, the Twins are not very high on Rosario sticking at 2B.

      Dozier seems to be over-rated by the Twins community. 18 HR and 66 RBI is good, but we are talking about a career .240 hitter with an OBP under .300, .682 OPS. These are not anywhere near all-star numbers. In the context of Polanco, if he pushes for an MLB role in two years and Dozier is sticking, Terry could flip Dozier and replace him with Polanco making $500K.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Yep, reports about his defense at SS this year will be extremely interesting, assuming that comment from TR about him staying at SS this year holds true. Even if he ends up at 2B, we're going to get something decent back in return for one of Dozier, Rosario, or Polanco eventually at the very least, you would think.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I don't think his path is that difficult as a 2B. From what I understand, the Twins are not very high on Rosario sticking at 2B.

      Dozier seems to be over-rated by the Twins community. 18 HR and 66 RBI is good, but we are talking about a career .240 hitter with an OBP under .300, .682 OPS. These are not anywhere near all-star numbers. In the context of Polanco, if he pushes for an MLB role in two years and Dozier is sticking, Terry could flip Dozier and replace him with Polanco making $500K.
      Looking at Dozier's career numbers are misleading, not to mention that RBI are completely irrelevant.

      Some time in May last season, Dozier worked with Bruno and changed his swing mechanics. After that point, he was an .800 OPS guy. If he comes back in 2014 anything like the hitter he was in the last four months of 2013, he's a very, very good second basemen.

      Or he could fall on his face. But given the consistent improvement he showed after May of 2013, I think we're looking at a different Brian Dozier, though I'm skeptical that his power numbers will remain where they were in 2013.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Looking at Dozier's career numbers are misleading, not to mention that RBI are completely irrelevant.

      Some time in May last season, Dozier worked with Bruno and changed his swing mechanics. After that point, he was an .800 OPS guy. If he comes back in 2014 anything like the hitter he was in the last four months of 2013, he's a very, very good second basemen.

      Or he could fall on his face. But given the consistent improvement he showed after May of 2013, I think we're looking at a different Brian Dozier, though I'm skeptical that his power numbers will remain where they were in 2013.
      I am looking at 900 at bats over 2 years, you are effectively cherry picking 297 at bats from June to August (His .678 OPS in 107 September at bats does not fit your thesis of a different Dozier).

      Look at Trevor Plouffe, he has gone on better streaks than Dozier for longer periods of time. In May and June of 2013 he had an OPS of .842 abd .879. His OPS in the entire first half of 2012 was .871.

      If you buy June on as the new normal for Dozier, his OPS was .786. Definitely a very good 2B. I am not ready to throw out the other 500 at bats and his minor league career. Outside of a good 2011 at A+ and AA, he was not impressive in 2010 or 2012
    1. Cris E's Avatar
      Cris E -
      I'm still wondering if Rosario sticks at 2b after missing 50 games. There's a very real chance that a fast start by Polanco puts them both at 2B in CR in July, and if Eddie doesn't come out playing well he might not get first pick of the available innings. The organization could take a hard look at things and let Rosario's bat develop in LF and Polanco at 2B and be done with the discussion this summer.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I kind of look at Polanco and the shortstop position the way I do some of the pitchers the Twins have been using as starters despite the fact that they are likely to end up in the bullpen. I may believe Polanco's likely position at the highest level will be 2B, but as long as I think he has a puncher's chance of sticking at SS, I'd keep sending him out there in the minors. Could his arm get stronger as his body develops more? Maybe, maybe not. But you lose nothing by continuing to give him innings out there. You can continue giving him innings at 2B, as well, and if that's where he ends up, so be it. With middle infielders, you just know there are going to be seasons when they're going to be needed at both middle positions.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      If Polanco is functional defensively at SS I believe he will stay there given the dearth of "hitting" SSs in the organization.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "am looking at 900 at bats over 2 years, you are effectively cherry picking 297 at bats" "If you buy June on as the new normal for Dozier, his OPS was .786. Definitely a very good 2B. I am not ready to throw out the other 500 at bats and his minor league career. Outside of a good 2011 at A+ and AA, he was not impressive in 2010 or 2012 " Aren't you cherry picking his minor league numbers? His 2012 numbers were just for 181 at bats. His minor league numbers are quite good. .298 avg and .370 OBP and I believe his fall league numbers were great as well. He improved from 2012 to 2013 at the major league level and I think he has a fair chance of improving in 2014. No one has a crystal ball but I think some optimism is justified.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim Crikket View Post
      I kind of look at Polanco and the shortstop position the way I do some of the pitchers the Twins have been using as starters despite the fact that they are likely to end up in the bullpen. I may believe Polanco's likely position at the highest level will be 2B, but as long as I think he has a puncher's chance of sticking at SS, I'd keep sending him out there in the minors. Could his arm get stronger as his body develops more? Maybe, maybe not. But you lose nothing by continuing to give him innings out there. You can continue giving him innings at 2B, as well, and if that's where he ends up, so be it. With middle infielders, you just know there are going to be seasons when they're going to be needed at both middle positions.
      the other thing that would be nice to see is analysis around how many runs a year you are losing with a weaker armed SS that can hit, versus a guy like Florimon. It seems like it is a hard and fast "this guy does not have the arm for SS", but we are then OK with Florimon hitting .220.

      If you assume Polanco to be a:

      .280 hitter with a .740 OPS, 45 extra base hits a year, with 50-60 BB.

      Polanco and Florimon field at the same clip, but Polanco fails to throw out 15 guys that Florimon would throw out.....

      You would think you could model this out and make a strong case that on balance, Polanco would be a better SS. Over 600 at bats, you are getting 36 more hits, 20-25 more extra base hits, and you are on base another 45-50 times.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I am looking at 900 at bats over 2 years, you are effectively cherry picking 297 at bats from June to August (His .678 OPS in 107 September at bats does not fit your thesis of a different Dozier).

      Look at Trevor Plouffe, he has gone on better streaks than Dozier for longer periods of time. In May and June of 2013 he had an OPS of .842 abd .879. His OPS in the entire first half of 2012 was .871.

      If you buy June on as the new normal for Dozier, his OPS was .786. Definitely a very good 2B. I am not ready to throw out the other 500 at bats and his minor league career. Outside of a good 2011 at A+ and AA, he was not impressive in 2010 or 2012
      Unlike Plouffe, you can draw a line in the sand the day Dozier changed his mechanics with Bruno. After that day, he was a different player for the rest of the season (and a .678 OPS over a month doesn't change that, that's still way above Dozier's 2012 and early 2013 numbers). Dozier didn't get hot for a couple of months and hit a ton of homers like Plouffe. He started taking more pitches, he started walking more, he started striking out less.

      Does that mean Dozier is going to remain the player he was post-May of last season? No, absolutely not. But it means he has a better chance of remaining a very good player because everything about him changed as a hitter and maybe even more importantly, he looked like the player he was in the minor leagues. That didn't happen with Plouffe... Trevor just started hitting a bunch of homers and once those homers dried up, he was back to being a marginal player.

      With that said, I believe Dozier's power numbers will decline this year. But given how he's walking more, taking more pitches, and putting more wood on the ball when he does swing, that's a much better indication that his change is for real and not the result of getting lucky on a handful of bad pitches over a two month stretch.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris E View Post
      I'm still wondering if Rosario sticks at 2b after missing 50 games. There's a very real chance that a fast start by Polanco puts them both at 2B in CR in July, and if Eddie doesn't come out playing well he might not get first pick of the available innings. The organization could take a hard look at things and let Rosario's bat develop in LF and Polanco at 2B and be done with the discussion this summer.
      They aren't demoting Rosario 2 levels He will likely start in AA or AAA depending on several factors I'm sure.

      That, and given what we keep reading about Rosario, the doubters about him sticking at 2nd are fewer and fewer.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Unlike Plouffe, you can draw a line in the sand the day Dozier changed his mechanics with Bruno. After that day, he was a different player for the rest of the season (and a .678 OPS over a month doesn't change that, that's still way above Dozier's 2012 and early 2013 numbers). Dozier didn't get hot for a couple of months and hit a ton of homers like Plouffe. He started taking more pitches, he started walking more, he started striking out less.

      Does that mean Dozier is going to remain the player he was post-May of last season? No, absolutely not. But it means he has a better chance of remaining a very good player because everything about him changed as a hitter and maybe even more importantly, he looked like the player he was in the minor leagues. That didn't happen with Plouffe... Trevor just started hitting a bunch of homers and once those homers dried up, he was back to being a marginal player.

      With that said, I believe Dozier's power numbers will decline this year. But given how he's walking more, taking more pitches, and putting more wood on the ball when he does swing, that's a much better indication that his change is for real and not the result of getting lucky on a handful of bad pitches over a two month stretch.
      When you look at Dozier's history, you see he is streaky. So the risk is looking at 300 at bats in one year and throwing out the history. So I would advise a dash of caution on Dozier being a new player.

      2009 – .837 OPS as a 22 year old in rookie league.
      2010 - .700 OPS as a 23 year old at A/A+
      2011 - .890 OPS as a 24 year old at A+/AA
      2012 - .623 OPS as a 25 year old at AAA, .603 OPS as a 25 year old in MLB
      2013 - .726 OPS as a 26 year old in MLB

      I hope he is a new player, but I would not be surprised if he continue to be up and down.
    1. halfchest's Avatar
      halfchest -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      When you look at Dozier's history, you see he is streaky. So the risk is looking at 300 at bats in one year and throwing out the history. So I would advise a dash of caution on Dozier being a new player.

      2009 – .837 OPS as a 22 year old in rookie league.
      2010 - .700 OPS as a 23 year old at A/A+
      2011 - .890 OPS as a 24 year old at A+/AA
      2012 - .623 OPS as a 25 year old at AAA, .603 OPS as a 25 year old in MLB
      2013 - .726 OPS as a 26 year old in MLB

      I hope he is a new player, but I would not be surprised if he continue to be up and down.
      Good points for sure. Is he an all star? No, will he ever be? Doubtful. However even if he's somewhere in between these numbers say he can be around a .700 OPS guy with plus defense at 2B there's a lot of value in that. I think his floor is a .650 OPS guy with plus defense at 2B maybe transitioning to a utility guy if he never gets above that. His ceiling though is that guy we saw from June - September. My expectation is around a .750 OPS which is great for a good defensive 2B.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      When you look at Dozier's history, you see he is streaky. So the risk is looking at 300 at bats in one year and throwing out the history. So I would advise a dash of caution on Dozier being a new player.

      2009 – .837 OPS as a 22 year old in rookie league.
      2010 - .700 OPS as a 23 year old at A/A+
      2011 - .890 OPS as a 24 year old at A+/AA
      2012 - .623 OPS as a 25 year old at AAA, .603 OPS as a 25 year old in MLB
      2013 - .726 OPS as a 26 year old in MLB

      I hope he is a new player, but I would not be surprised if he continue to be up and down.
      A bit streaky for sure but if you remove what seems to be a lost 2012 for Dozier, all those OPSes are .700 or better.

      Basically, his floor should be a lot higher than what we saw in 2012, where he struggled at multiple levels. If you look at his OBP minus BA, every level and every year, Dozier has posted .070 to .090 isolated discipline... Except for 2012 and the beginning of 2013, where he was more around .040-.050.

      Now that he posted another season of .070 iso discipline in 2013, that makes 2012 look like the aberration, not the other way around.

      Naturally, this doesn't "prove" anything but players who take pitches and walk tend to maintain some level of success, as it shows that they are identifying pitches and laying off those they cannot hit.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      I am confused by any ideas that he will be a shortstop. I know he has split time but this does not seem like reality. Based on how it has worked with others, players don't develop the arm for the SS/3b positions. Either you have it or not. I am sure there are some exceptions but generally speaking, when do you see this happen? If he had a shortstop arm then he would be there now. The team would not be messing around with that. I think it would be a miracle if he became more than a 2b.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      A bit streaky for sure but if you remove what seems to be a lost 2012 for Dozier, all those OPSes are .700 or better.

      Basically, his floor should be a lot higher than what we saw in 2012, where he struggled at multiple levels. If you look at his OBP minus BA, every level and every year, Dozier has posted .070 to .090 isolated discipline... Except for 2012 and the beginning of 2013, where he was more around .040-.050.

      Now that he posted another season of .070 iso discipline in 2013, that makes 2012 look like the aberration, not the other way around.

      Naturally, this doesn't "prove" anything but players who take pitches and walk tend to maintain some level of success, as it shows that they are identifying pitches and laying off those they cannot hit.
      Let's take a step back. It seems like you are casually tossing aside a lot of data.

      Rookie League - he was a 22 year old, four year college guy who posted an OPS of .837. That is not impressive in the least bit. You have some 16 and 17 year olds in this league, most are 19-20 or under.

      2010 - a .700 OPS is not anywhere near impressive for a 23 year old in low and high a. He is four years ahead of Polanco, who had an OPS of .813.

      2011 - His numbers were excellent, but in A+/AA as a 24 year old. you have to discount it a bit.

      2012 - Awful

      2013 - .609 OPS in April, .513 OPS in May, .678 in September. June-August he was very good.

      It seems like he is 50/50 at any given time. We had a lack of successes last year and as a result, we are clinging to the year Dozier had without looking at how streaky he has been and how over the last 2 years, the guy has been bad in 8 of the 12 months and good in 3 (so so in 9/2013).
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "If he had a shortstop arm then he would be there now. The team would not be messing around with that. I think it would be a miracle if he became more than a 2b." I assume you are back to talking about Polanco right now. My response is that if he didn't have close to what is considered a shortstop arm then indeed they wouldn't be messing around with it so I doubt it is a Revere type arm. Punto had a 2nd baseman arm overcame it with quick routes to the ball and a quick release. He was average at short and very good at 3rd base. I agree with a poster above that if Polanco can be an average shortstop defensively and a good hitter (forget about power, can he get on base) that is better than a good fielder and below average hitter like Florimon. I have no idea if he can stick at shortstop but the Twins want to see more of him there. If it was so obvious that he could not play there then they would have cut bait on the idea a while ago so turn your sentence around. If he did not have a shortstop arm the team would not be messing with that. Easy to imagine someone writing off Omar Visquel at age 18 for not having a shortstop arm.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      Let's take a step back. It seems like you are casually tossing aside a lot of data.

      Rookie League - he was a 22 year old, four year college guy who posted an OPS of .837. That is not impressive in the least bit. You have some 16 and 17 year olds in this league, most are 19-20 or under.

      2010 - a .700 OPS is not anywhere near impressive for a 23 year old in low and high a. He is four years ahead of Polanco, who had an OPS of .813.

      2011 - His numbers were excellent, but in A+/AA as a 24 year old. you have to discount it a bit.

      2012 - Awful

      2013 - .609 OPS in April, .513 OPS in May, .678 in September. June-August he was very good.

      It seems like he is 50/50 at any given time. We had a lack of successes last year and as a result, we are clinging to the year Dozier had without looking at how streaky he has been and how over the last 2 years, the guy has been bad in 8 of the 12 months and good in 3 (so so in 9/2013).
      A case can be made from both sides of the spectrum for Dozier. You've made the points on the floor side, but help me understand where you truly stand... how exactly do you foresee Dozier performing this year and even over the next few years?
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