Pittsburgh Pirates: One Breakout Prospect to Watch at Each Position

The Pirates could see these prospects breakout in 2024.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Rick Stewart/GettyImages
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Center Field - Shalin Polanco

Shalin Polanco looked like he was on his way to a breakout season in 2023, but he fell into a slump in July and eventually fell on the injured list, playing his last game on July 19th. But Polanco showed some talent in what was an overall brief season. If he continues to hit anything like he did leading up to his injury, he'll be one of the Pirates' best breakout prospects in 2024.

Polanco got on a hot streak in mid-May that lasted through the first week of July, where he hit .301/.355/.536 with a .404 wOBA and 135 wRC+. Although he had a sub-par 7.7% walk rate and 26.6% strikeout rate, Polanco hit for a decent amount of pop, going yard eight times in 169 plate appearances and having an isolated slugging percentage of .235. He also showed off some base running prowess, swiping 13 bases in 15 attempts.

But after his hot streak, he had an ice-cold slump where he had just four hits in 29 plate appearances. Eventually, Polanco landed on the injured list with an injury, causing him to miss the last weeks of July and then all of August and September. While the season wasn't a complete waste, it was disappointing we couldn't see what a fully healthy Shalin could do over a full season.

Polanco's skillset is the definition of "jack of all trades, master of none." He doesn't have one plus tool, but everything sits around average to above average in the 50-55 range. Polanco's swing has some length to it, but he should develop it into an average tool. He's shown off good raw power and could be a 15-20 home run hitter in the future. Polanco has good enough speed to remain in center field, but if he slows down, he could move to an outfield corner. His arm is strong enough to play any of the three outfield spots, and if he sticks up the middle, he could be a solid defender.

Among all Pirates' position player prospects, Polanco could probably benefit the most from a full season. He only just turned 20 earlier this month, so he's still very young. But if Polanco impresses enough at Bradenton early this year, he could end the season at Greensboro or higher.