Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Shalin Polanco has been one of minor league baseball's hottest players for over the past month
One prospect many identified as a potential breakout minor leaguer in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system was outfielder Shalin Polanco. Polanco was the team’s most notable international signee from the 2020-2021 offseason. His first two pro seasons were spent at the Dominican Summer League and Florida Complex League, but he didn’t perform all that well. He showed off some raw tools but nothing to write home about.
Even his first month of the 2023 season was poor. Going into play on May 13th Polanco was batting just .150/.192/.300 with a .290 wOBA and 70 wRC+. While he walked in 13.4% of his plate appearances, he also struck out a third of the time. However, since that day, Polanco has been red hot and started to look like the batter the Pirates hoped he’d become.
Since May 13th, Polanco has batted .336/.381/.645. He’s hit eight home runs while stepping to the plate 118 times. On top of that, he’s racked up nine doubles. His overall isolated slugging percentage comes out just over .300 at .308. Polanco has been one of the Pirates’ hottest prospects, as he’s put up a .457 wOBA and 171 wRC+ in this time.
The only downside is that his walk and strikeout rates aren’t all that impressive. He has just a 7.6% walk rate and 23.7% strikeout rate. Although those aren’t terrible numbers, you’d like to see slightly better rates. But in Polanco’s defense, he has been much better at drawing walks and keeping strikeouts down recently. Since the last week of May, Polanco has had a 9.6% walk rate and 20.5% strikeout rate. Since the start of June, he has had a sub-20% strikeout rate at 17.2%.
After Polanco’s three-for-three game on Saturday, in which he had a double, home run, and a walk, Polanco has raised his season OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ to .838, .383, and 126, respectively. That’s pretty good for someone who had a .492 OPS, .290 wOBA, and 70 wRC+ after the first month of the 2023 season.
Keep in mind that Polanco is only 19-years-old and a young 19 at that. He won’t turn 20 until next February. He’s still a teenager and at the first full-season level of the minor leagues. There was no question about Polanco’s potential heading into this season, but it looks as if he’s found something that’s worked for him. It would be very cool to see him debut at Greensboro before the end of the year, which is very much a possibility based on how he’s been swinging the lumber.