The Pittsburgh Pirates are about to sign their next wave of International free agents, including two prominent names. How did last year’s top signee perform?
In 2020, the Pittsburgh Pirates landed one of their most prominent International Free agents in the Organization’s recent history. Outfielder Shalin Polanco, who was ranked at MLB Pipeline’s #11 overall prospect, signed with the Bucs for a bonus of $2.35 million. This was the largest bonus they had ever given out to an International amateur hitting prospect.
Not only was Polanco ranked as one of the best players in the International class, but he also was considered one of the best outfield prospects available. There were three other outfielders ranked ahead of Polanco, but 2 of them were 23 years old and the other at 24. Polanco was actually considered the true top amateur outfielder available for the younger players who became eligible to sign.
So how did the new top prospect perform after signing such a large bonus? Polanco got his Pittsburgh Pirates career started in 2021 with the team’s Dominican Summer League affiliate (DSL). He appeared in a total of 47 games, giving him plenty of experience in his first professional season.
Polanco didn’t post the most phenomenal numbers in his first taste of professional baseball. However, it was his age-17 season and in a small sample size. He only hit .204/.284/.338 with a .307 wOBA, and 77 wRC+. This was only through 147 plate appearances. Though he did show some prowess on the base paths with 6 stolen bases in 8 attempts.
Polanco is a well-rounded outfield prospect. Standing at 5’11, 170 LBS before turning 18, Polanco has a very projectable frame. He can generate solid power with his bat speed alone. Right now, the only tool FanGraphs projects to be below average is his speed, though he is a good base runner. Polanco is projected to be a plus power hitter in the long term who can man center field. Hopefully, he bounces back in 2022 and shows why he was so highly sought after.