May 5th was a bad day. I attended the Twins game at Target Field and watched a lifeless team sink to 11-18 with a 3-1 loss against the last-place Rangers. Polanco and Max Kepler went a combined 0-for-8 with six strikeouts. I came home grumpy, and lamented that the Twins had seemingly founded their team-building strategy upon faulty cornerstones. In my frustration, I may or may not have fired out a tweet labeling Polanco and a couple other laggards "garbage." That same night, I declared I had seen enough, and wrote off the 2021 Twins as contenders.
Sadly I was not wrong on the latter assertion, but the unkind assessment of Polanco looks downright silly in the wake of his dramatic and remarkable turnaround.
In my defense, there was plenty of validity in the expression of doubt. Polanco became a heightened subject of my scrutiny, in part because his swing looked so blatantly bad and in part because his manager seemed oddly unconcerned.
In mid-April, I wrote an article here wondering when Rocco Baldelli's faith in Polanco's bat would be shaken, noting the mounting evidence of his diminished offensive ability. At that point, Polanco owned a .358 OPS and had slashed .260/.313/.393 over his previous 164 games – good for a .303 wOBA that was nearly identical to Andrelton Simmons over the same time period.
Given this evidence, there was just no real reason to believe in Polanco. I didn't doubt that his poor production was more a reflection of ongoing health issues than his true talent, but there were no signs of improvement on that front. Even after a second consecutive offseason ankle surgery, he was still unable to put his lower half into his left-handed swing, and thus, his numbers against right-handed pitchers remained abysmal.
What's happened since is a good reminder that the body can sometimes take a long time to get right, and patience is generally a good policy.
Since my aforementioned cranky tweet on May 5th, Polanco has slashed .290/.351/.533 with 20 home runs in 86 games, and lately he's turned into a walk-off machine. His Statcast metrics look radically different from the ones I shared in April. He's hitting for as much power as anyone in the league.
Polanco is not just playing at an All-Star level; he'd be right in the MVP conversation if the Twins weren't so bad.
Most importantly, Polanco has re-established himself as a high-quality building block and a key fixture in the club's contention hopes going forward.
Hard to remember another time when I've been this delighted to be this wrong. Sorry again, Jorge.