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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. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      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?
      I would guess his numbers will bounce around a bit from year to year and month to month, with a floor/ceiling in this range:

      Average - .225-.260
      HR/Year - 9-15
      OBP - .290-.315
      OPS - .640-740

      I think this equates to about an average 2B. Circling back, in two years when Polanco is ready and Dozier is making $4M and running out of control I could see trading him and making room for the cheaper player. I can't pencil him in as the 2B for the next 10 years until he is more consistent from year to year and month to month.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I would guess his numbers will bounce around a bit from year to year and month to month, with a floor/ceiling in this range:

      Average - .225-.260
      HR/Year - 9-15
      OBP - .290-.315
      OPS - .640-730

      I think this equates to about an average 2B. Circling back, in two years when Polanco is ready and Dozier is making $4M and running out of control I could see trading him and making room for the cheaper player. I can't pencil him in as the 2B for the next 10 years until he is more consistent from year to year and month to month.
      We're really not that far apart when you get right down to it. My floor for Dozier is quite a bit higher with the caveat that if he's anywhere near your floor, he's out of baseball entirely within 24 months.

      I think he'll be somewhere in the .710-.770 OPS range in 2014. Again, with the caveat that he's taking walks. I think Dozier's success entirely hinges on that isolated discipline being somewhere around .070, give or take 10 points.

      If that isolated discipline drops to the .040-.050 range again, I think he's off the team within a year.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "My floor for Dozier is quite a bit higher with the caveat that if he's anywhere near your floor, he's out of baseball entirely within 24 months." That seems fairly reasonable. I agree with the floor but think his ceiling is a bit higher. In fact, I will be quite disappointed if his OBP doesn't get above .330 with .270 average. Minor league OBP was .370 so I don't think .330 should be out of the question and certainly he shouldn't be a leadoff hitter if he is below that.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that he stays as a SS as long as possible. His defense at SS has been improving every season. I do have to question the "weak arm" bit. His arm is not like Sano's but it is not weak by any means. I would call it "average". And there have been fine shortstops with average arms (e.g. Jeter) or even weak arms (e.g. Noarm Garciaparra) as long as they are accurate.

      The one thing that might make him move to 2B is not his arm, but his bulkiness, if it cuts into his range. He has gained considerable muscle weight and he looks more like Jhonny Peralta (another aveage arm All Star SS, btw) than Alexei Ramirez these days, but people thought that Cal Ripken was too big to play SS once upon a time. If he is anything close to Peralta, Twins fans would be very happy (and at this point Polanco has better plate discipline, ever as an A league player than Peralta ever had or will have, so I think that his ceiling is a little higher than that...)
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      It'll be interesting to see what happens. I think Dozier is a guy who will OPS between .720 and .780 most years with the ability to get it over .800 a couple of times. That's pretty solid.

      I think they keep Rosario at 2B this year, getting him a handful of games at Ft. Myers before he heads back to New Britain. I don't think he has much chance of sticking at 2B.

      Polanco currently is not close to as good defensively at SS as Niko Goodrum. Aside from here and there, the only time that Polanco played SS was when Niko was out with the concussion or the groin injury. Polanco can play SS, and he should continue to get some time there. The bigger question is if Goodrum will get bigger and have to move to 3B or the OF or something. Goodrum hasn't shown it yet, but he does have potential to add a lot of strength and power in time.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Polanco currently is not close to as good defensively at SS as Niko Goodrum. Aside from here and there, the only time that Polanco played SS was when Niko was out with the concussion or the groin injury. Polanco can play SS, and he should continue to get some time there. The bigger question is if Goodrum will get bigger and have to move to 3B or the OF or something. Goodrum hasn't shown it yet, but he does have potential to add a lot of strength and power in time.
      Goodrum is more of a Florimon-type defender. Good range but occasionally erratic and a very strong arm. The more I see him play the more I think that he will follow in the Cuddyer/Plouffe footsteps (if he starts to hit). And that might happen, but right now Goodrum is as much a prospect as Levi Michael is, because of the bat (or lack of...) Still young, but he's got to produce one of these days.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      It'll be interesting to see what happens. I think Dozier is a guy who will OPS between .720 and .780 most years with the ability to get it over .800 a couple of times. That's pretty solid.

      I think they keep Rosario at 2B this year, getting him a handful of games at Ft. Myers before he heads back to New Britain. I don't think he has much chance of sticking at 2B.

      Polanco currently is not close to as good defensively at SS as Niko Goodrum. Aside from here and there, the only time that Polanco played SS was when Niko was out with the concussion or the groin injury. Polanco can play SS, and he should continue to get some time there. The bigger question is if Goodrum will get bigger and have to move to 3B or the OF or something. Goodrum hasn't shown it yet, but he does have potential to add a lot of strength and power in time.
      I hope you are right about dozier. But his ops in the minors was .779 and he was one of the oldest at every level. His ops in the big leagues is .680. And if he was over .800 this year he would have been 5th among 2b and potentially an all star. Seems rosy.
    1. Madre Dos's Avatar
      Madre Dos -
      I have to admit I was surprised when he was put on the 40 man roster. Jorge is smart and can think on his feet. I am very happy for him. He was a fan favorite in Cedar Rapids "HIP -HIP - JORGE" when he would get a hit or make a great defensive play.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Madre Dos View Post
      He was a fan favorite in Cedar Rapids "HIP -HIP - JORGE" when he would get a hit or make a great defensive play.
      That's pretty funny. Thank you for your contributions and insights, by the way.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I hope you are right about dozier. But his ops in the minors was .779 and he was one of the oldest at every level. His ops in the big leagues is .680. And if he was over .800 this year he would have been 5th among 2b and potentially an all star. Seems rosy.
      What he hasn't done is struggle at the same level repeatedly. He was continually challenged, despite being on the slightly older end of the prospect age scale, and responded. I think you're losing that context by simply referring to overall numbers or "bad" years.

      In 2010, moved up from rookie ball to play 39 games at single-A with marginal results. Quickly pushed to high-A and continued that. In 2011, he started back in high-A and did well quickly, continuing that trend at AA. In 2012, he jumped to the majors and might not have been ready leading to struggles at both AAA and MLB. In 2013, he adjusted to MLB early in the year and did well.

      I'll buy the inconsistency argument more if he has a significantly sub-par year in 2014, but as is, I think you can contribute a fair amount of that track record to adjusting to new levels.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I hope you are right about dozier. But his ops in the minors was .779 and he was one of the oldest at every level. His ops in the big leagues is .680. And if he was over .800 this year he would have been 5th among 2b and potentially an all star. Seems rosy.
      People make way too big of a deal about the age... He went to college for four years... Obviously he's going to be a little older... but he also made his big league debut when he was 24 years old, which certainly isn't old. He had a broken collarbone his senior season, so they Twins kept him in the GCL and got him back into it a bit. He spent less than half season in Beloit. About a season in Ft. Myers, and a half-season in New Britain. That's moving very quickly. He then played about 15-18 games at AAA before coming up.

      I couldn't care less about his numbers in the GCL. He showed his skill set in 2011. He certainly struggled mightily in his big league debut.. not unusual. He started slow last year... but he made those mechanical changes in late May and was pretty solid after that. I'm not saying he's going to be a perennial All Star. I think the .720-.780 range is very realistic, certainly not excessive... And, if I think he can be in that range, there's no reason to believe that he couldn't have a year or two that jump into the .800 range. That's not a big stretch.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Goodrum is more of a Florimon-type defender. Good range but occasionally erratic and a very strong arm. The more I see him play the more I think that he will follow in the Cuddyer/Plouffe footsteps (if he starts to hit). And that might happen, but right now Goodrum is as much a prospect as Levi Michael is, because of the bat (or lack of...) Still young, but he's got to produce one of these days.
      I haven't seen Goodrum play, but if he is a Florimon type defender at short, that is pretty good. Cuddyer and Plouffe were never that good defensively, really anywhere, but certainly not at short. Cuddyer was up and down offensively in the minors, but largely he was pretty good offensively, his bat is what got him to the majors. Plouffe managed to stay at short till he got to the majors, but his bat was very inconsistent, he really hasn't shown yet that his bat will be consistent enough for him to be an everyday player at either corner infielder or corner outfielder.

      I believe Goodrum is one of those toolsy type players, who could develop into a good hitter but like a Benson, might not. The thing he has going for him is he can play defense and if he can stay at shortstop(doesn't outgrow the position) he has a very good chance of being a big league regular.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      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).

      There are no 16 year olds in the Appy league. It's an advanced rookie league with an average age of 21. It's primarily for college guys coming off a long college season. There's a handful of teenagers on every team, but they're the exception to the rule.

      You base much of your discounting on stuff outside of his control. The Twins have only sent two infielders to A ball out of college in the last 20 years (Knoblauch and Michaels). They typically send you to the Appy league and make you earn your way up. That's what Dozier has done. With the exception of 2012, when he was given the Aaron Hicks treatment and struggled in similar ways, he has earned his way at every level.

      It's way too early to give up on him, as you seem determined to do. I'm with Brock. Once he learned the MLB strike zone, he took off. I think he turned a corner. He might regress from his lofty September. But something like the average of June through September is a reasonable projection.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      There are no 16 year olds in the Appy league. It's an advanced rookie league with an average age of 21. It's primarily for college guys coming off a long college season. There's a handful of teenagers on every team, but they're the exception to the rule.

      You base much of your discounting on stuff outside of his control. The Twins have only sent two infielders to A ball out of college in the last 20 years (Knoblauch and Michaels). They typically send you to the Appy league and make you earn your way up. That's what Dozier has done. With the exception of 2012, when he was given the Aaron Hicks treatment and struggled in similar ways, he has earned his way at every level.

      It's way too early to give up on him, as you seem determined to do. I'm with Brock. Once he learned the MLB strike zone, he took off. I think he turned a corner. He might regress from his lofty September. But something like the average of June through September is a reasonable projection.
      I was off a little on the Appy average age, but you had Sano at 18, Rosario at 19, Thorpe will be 18, and Deolis Guerra was actually in low A as a 17 year old.

      Either way, I was not trying to write off Dozier. I think he can be an above average 2B, I am just not ready to pencil him as a guy that will average a .750 OPS and approach .800 in some years, which makes him a potential all-star.
      That seems to be the consensus on the site. I am not ready to just forget his 540 at bats in 2012 as well as April and May of 2013.

      I initially responded to the notion that Polanco's path may not be too difficult. I don't see Rosario sticking at 2B and if Dozier is just an average 2B and is starting to get expensive, I could see Dozier being traded to another team because we would have Polanco who is cheaper.
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