Gregory Polanco has been the most hyped Pittsburgh Pirates’ prospect since, well, actually since Gerrit Cole. Who was the most hyped prospect since…Starling Marte. Okay, the Pirates have had an incredibly deep farm system, but Polanco is still expected to become the third piece to an already tremendous outfield. He had a rough start to his big league career last year, batting a mere .235 and losing the starting job to Travis Snider late in the season. Over the offseason, Polanco planned to get better, adding 12-15 pounds of muscle. In a different time, Polanco could pass as a linebacker. The Pittsburgh Steelers could use one of those, but for now, Polanco plans on using that muscle to add power at the plate. More power would mean Polanco could develop into the true five-tool player he is expected to become.
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So far this season, Polanco leads the Pirates in hits with 10, steals with three, and is tied for the team lead in doubles with Neil Walker, who both have three. Yes, it’s early, but maybe Polanco showed flashes of what could be with Friday night’s performance against Milwaukee. He went three for four with a double to left, a single to left, and a single to right. Polanco has the ability to hit to all fields, and this approach will be invaluable to him. He also stole three bases last night, one of which was a steal of second and third when Jonathan Lucroy threw the ball into center field. Pirates’ announcer Greg Brown praised Polanco’s long strides last night endlessly, and it’s hard to disagree with the importance of this. If Polanco becomes a real threat on the basepaths, catchers will rush throws to second, allowing him to take third on the occasional errant throw.
In a different time, Polanco could pass as a linebacker…More power would mean Polanco could develop into the true five-tool player he is expected to become
Polanco also used his long strides to get to a fly ball in shallow right/center field Friday night that the average right fielder wouldn’t stand a chance of getting to (imagine Travis Snider trying to run down a shallow fly ball). Yes, he misplayed a ball off the wall in right just before that catch. But Polanco’s still adjusting defensively to being in right at PNC Park. With time, his speed will more than make up for minor defensive lapses, as it does for both Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.
Speaking of Marte, he also had a big night on Friday, which including a two-run monster home run to left. If I’m a betting man, the Marte of the second half of last season will greatly help Polanco and his growth and maturity rather than the Marte we’ve seen so far this season. Both hail from the Dominican Republic, and Marte has helped with Polanco’s adjustment to the majors. Polanco will gain valuable knowledge from a star-caliber Marte.
Gregory Polanco showed his entire skill set Friday night, that which made him one of the most hyped Pirates’ prospects in recent memory. He showed the ability to hit for power and to all places on the field, as well as speed on the basepaths and in the field. Maybe Friday was a sign of things to come for Polanco. Even if it was just one game, it could at least be a confidence booster for him as he hopes to become the third piece of an already brilliant Bucco outfield.