Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Outfielders Who Can Build Off a Strong 2023 Season

While outfield may be the shallowest part of the Pirates' minor league system, they do have some outfield prospects who could build off of a good last season.
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Shalin Polanco

Shalin Polanco may not have been taken in the draft, but he is one of the Pirates’ best recent international signings. Ranked as the tenth-best international prospect by MLB Pipeline during the 2020-2021 off-season, the Pirates signed him for $2.3 million. Polanco is probably the team’s second-best outfield prospect, with a lot of potential heading into 2024.

The first two years of Polanco’s pro career weren’t bad, but they also weren’t great. He showed talent and potential but couldn’t seem to put it all together at one point. In 2023, however, he started to show the talent that made him a top international prospect.

Polanco got off to a cold start in 2023 but started to come into his own during mid-May. Through his final 198 plate appearances of the season, Polanco batted .282/.337/.492 with a .378 wOBA and 120 wRC+. While his 7.6% walk rate nor his 26.8% strikeout rate were good by any means necessary, he showed off some good pop with a .209 isolated slugging percentage.

But Polanco’s season was cut short. In mid-July, he went on a 4-24 streak with just two walks and eight strikeouts. It was a short stretch, but his worst stretch since early May. His wRC+ from May 15th through July 6th dropped from 135 to 120 because of this cold streak. Polanco was then placed on the injured list and didn’t return for the rest of the year.

Polanco is a very well-rounded prospect, as while he doesn’t have one standout tool, nothing sits as below average either. Given how often he has struck out and his uninspiring walk rate last year, his hit tool could be somewhat worrying. But both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs project him to eventually reach an average level. There’s potential for him to stick in center field with a solid glove, but his arm is strong enough to work in both corners.

It was an unfortunate end to Polanco’s season as he started to look like he found his groove. Regardless of the injury, it was a promising season for Polanco. Keep in mind that he is still young. He doesn’t turn 20 until February and 2023 was only his age-19 campaign. We shall see where he starts in the minor leagues next year.