- Full name Gregory Polanco
- Born 09/14/1991 in Santo Domingo Centro, Dominican Republic
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 240 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- Debut 06/10/2014
Organization Prospect Rankings
When Pirates Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo first laid eyes on Polanco as a 17-year-old amateur pitcher in the Dominican Republic, he said was reminded of a sick giraffe. Polanco still has giraffe-like qualities. His long legs make him appear taller than his listed height of 6-foot-4, and he has the frame to pack on more than his listed 170 pounds. Gayo's second thought about Polanco was that he wouldn't make it as a pitcher in professional baseball, but his long frame made him an intriguing outfield prospect. So Gayo offered Polanco a $150,000 bonus if he would give up pitching, and he hasn't stepped on a mound since. Polanco's lack of hitting experience showed in his first two seasons in the United States as he hit a combined .218/.288/.322 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Polanco broke out in 2012 at low Class A West Virginia, winning the South Atlantic League player of the year award as he hit .325/.388/.522 with 16 home runs and 40 stolen bases. While Polanco didn't match that performance in 2013, he hit .285/.356/.434 over three levels, advancing from high Class A Bradenton to finish the season as part of Triple-A Indianapolis' playoff team. He also wowed scouts with his batting practice before the Futures Game at spacious Citi Field in New York by driving a number of balls deep into the right-field stands. Polanco is an athletic five-tool talent with the ability to hit for power and average, run, throw and play superior defense in center field. The area in which Polanco needs the most work is hitting. Though he has exceptional bat speed and fast hands, his swing tends to get long, and he also has trouble laying off breaking pitches outside the zone. At his size, Polanco always will have some holes in his swing, and some scouts question whether he will hit for plus power because of the lengthy swing. Others are convinced his improved plate discipline and growing feel for hitting will translate into an all-star power/speed combination. Polanco's long, gliding strides enable him to cover tons of ground, especially laterally, as he can track down flyballs from gap to gap, and his plus arm would allow him to play right field. His route-running, especially on balls over his head, needs polish but should improve with experience. His above-average speed also makes him a threat on the bases, and he continues to hone his baserunning instincts. While face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen patrols center, right field is open in Pittsburgh, and Polanco is so talented that he almost certainly will force his way into the major league lineup at some point in 2014, most likely in right. He would join McCutchen and Starling Marte to give the Pirates one of the most dynamic outfields in the business, but he still needs some finishing touches, so he will start the 2014 season back at Indianapolis. He should be in the major leagues before long and figures to be an impact player for many years to come.
After hitting a combined .218/.288/.322 in the previous two seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Polanco clearly was the system's breakout player in 2012. He led Pirates farmhands in steals (40) while ranking second in all three slash stats (.325/.388/.522) as well as homers (16) and RBIs (85). Signed for $175,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he's starting to look like a bargain. Polanco has blossomed into a five-tool talent now that he has improved his plate discipline and ability to drive the ball. His swing can get long and he can get pull-happy, but he makes consistent hard contact and good adjustments at the plate. He projects to hit for at least solid average and power. Polanco is a quality center fielder with plenty of range and a strong arm. He also projects as a high-volume basestealer, though he needs refinement in that area. Polanco played so well last season that it's not a stretch to think he could be a 30/30 player in Pittsburgh. While he must prove he's more than a one-year wonder, the tools are there for him to be a star. He'll move up to high Class A at age 21 and is at least two full minor league seasons away from being ready for the majors.
Minor League Top Prospects
Polanco made the full-time switch from center to right field in spring training, then hit his way to the big leagues in mid-June. He played well initially, but the Pirates demoted him to Indianapolis for a breather in late August in the midst of a 1-for-30 slump. A five-tool talent and potential all-star, Polanco's above-average bat speed and plus power to his pull side help him overcome a loopy swing versus offspeed stuff. He takes his walks and doesn't strike out excessively, which will help the tall, lean, lefthanded hitter keep his average above the league norm. With less ground to cover in right field, Polanco can make up for bad routes to the ball with his above-average speed, but his instincts on the basepaths need work. "When I saw him in Pittsburgh in September, he was shortening up a little bit on his leads," Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. "But the kid likes to run. His strides are so big, it's like he takes two steps and he's gone from second to home. "He's a young 22 and we have to keep that in perspective."
After a breakout year in 2012, Polanco kept right on breaking out. Although he didn?t turn 21 until September, the Pirates? latest whiz kid started the year in high Class A Bradenton and turned enough heads to join Taillon during Indianapolis? IL playoff run. The athletic Polanco popped 13 doubles and half a dozen homers in the more advanced EL, but right now the power he showcases has only been to the pull side. Facing much older, more seasoned pitchers, Polanco nearly doubled his walk rate after his promotion, while also reducing his strikeout rate. All signs point to a future .280 hitter with 20-plus homer potential. ?This guy came up here, and right away you could see all of the ability he had,? Trenton manager Tony Franklin said. Scouts and managers alike rave about Polanco?s ability to glide to baseballs in center field, even if he does have some work to do in the route-running department. The general consensus seems to be that while he?s good at moving laterally, he needs to improve on balls hit over his head. He also boasts a plus arm and could handle right field if he outgrows center.
Polanco broke out in 2012 in the low Class A South Atlantic League, but he accelerated his timetable even more in 2013, spending the second half in Double-A and finishing the year in Triple-A during the International League playoffs. While in the FSL, he earned comparisons with Domonic Brown for his body type and lefthanded-hitting, lefthanded-throwing profile, but Polanco is a different player. He?s extremely athletic with plus speed and long strides that help him gobble up ground in center field. Despite his length, he doesn?t have too many holes in his swing and generates good bat speed. The biggest question with Polanco is his power potential. If he fills out and slows down, he could move to a corner, where the profile requires more pop. Some scouts see him turning his power into Brown-like power, approaching 30 homers. Other see a flat swing path and project 15-20 homers. Everyone sees an impact talent who?s not far off from Pittsburgh.
West Virginia had a pair of players who had huge breakouts in the SAL. Both he and Alen Hanson ranked among the league's most dangerous hitters, with Polanco appearing first on this list because he has a better chance to play a premium defensive position. Polanco batted .370/.438/.592 in the second half, abusing lefthanders and righthanders alike. He makes consistent hard contact, so he should produce for both average and power, though he can get pull happy at times. He might have been the best athlete in the league, with well above-average speed, plenty of center-field range and a strong arm. "He can definitely stay in center," Febles said. ""He runs very well and he's an outstanding athlete, especially for his size. He can move for a big guy. His swing gets a little long but he makes adjustments. We got him out by pounding him inside and the next day we tried to do it again and he took us deep. We then went away on him and he adjusted to that as well. You don't see that much at this level."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Batting Prospect in the International League in 2014
- Rated Most Exciting Player in the International League in 2014
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014
- Rated Best Athlete in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013
- Rated Best Athlete in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013
- Rated Best Outfield Arm in the South Atlantic League in 2012
Background: After hitting a combined .218/.288/.322 in the previous two seasons in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Polanco clearly was the system's breakout player in 2012. He led Pirates farmhands in steals (40) while ranking second in all three slash stats (.325/.388/.522) as well as homers (16) and RBIs (85). Signed for $175,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he's starting to look like a bargain. Scouting Report: Polanco has blossomed into a five-tool talent now that he has improved his plate discipline and ability to drive the ball. His swing can get long and he can get pull-happy, but he makes consistent hard contact and good adjustments at the plate. He projects to hit for at least solid average and power. Polanco is a quality center fielder with plenty of range and a strong arm. He also projects as a high-volume basestealer, though he needs refinement in that area. The Future: Polanco played so well last season that it's not a stretch to think he could offer the combination of power and speed to be a 30/30 player in Pittsburgh. While he must prove he's more than a one-year wonder, the tools are there for him to be a star. He'll move up to high Class A at age 21 and is at least two full minor league seasons away from being ready for the majors.