TD Top Prospects: #8 Jorge Polanco
by, 02-04-2014 at 11:44 PM (437 Views)
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 the competition for it is fierce.
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 the 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 set the Twins up to be an interesting position in a couple years, especially if Dozier doesn't falter.