Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2013 Dominican Winter League Stats: .318/.437/.529, 18 R, 10 XBH (4 HR), 21 RBI, 2 SB, 19/18 K/BB (23 G)
Moved up to High-A Bradenton after a remarkable full-season debut in 2012, Gregory Polanco was even better this past season across three levels.
Overall, the 22-year-old (in his age-21 season) batted .285/.356/.434 with 44 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 71 RBI, 38 stolen bases and 73-52 a strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 games between Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, including two games at Triple-A Indianapolis to finish the regular season.
A left-handed hitter, Polanco has a mature approach at the plate with a present feel for the strike zone and mature pitch recognition. Due to his lanky build and long arms, he gets excellent coverage at the plate and utilizes the whole field.
Polanco’s bat path is short and quick, and he trusts his hands enough to let the ball get deep in the zone. He’ll get long on occasion which impedes his ability to handle velocity on the hands and up in the zone, but that’s really only a minor gripe. Overall, Polanco projects as an above-average hitter in the major leagues capable of annually batting average of .280-plus.
Although he has a wiry frame with plenty of room left to add strength, Polanco’s quick wrists and impressive bat speed give him more power than one might expect. He generates outstanding extension after contact, while his high follow-through creates considerable backspin carry to all fields.
He won’t be regarded as a power hitter at the next level, per se, but Polanco will continue to surprise with his pop as he moves up the ladder. When all is said and done, he should be capable of hitting 12-20 home runs annually.
Polanco showcases plus speed on both sides of the ball. He’s an aggressive baserunner who looks to swipe a bag and take an extra base whenever he reaches, though he’s still rather raw when it comes to reading pitchers and picking spots to run. Even if he never becomes a prolific base stealer, Polanco should be good for 20-plus steals in a given season.
Polanco’s speed and long strides are ideal for center field, where he showcases natural defensive actions and exceptional range in all directions. More importantly, he made significant strides in improving both his reads and routes this past season and, in turn, solidified his future as a center fielder at the highest level. Additionally, Polanco’s above-average arm strength is a clean fit at the position.
Polanco’s tools and feel for the game are both highly impressive for a player of his age and experience. This past season, the outfielder’s defense has caught up to his bat, which helps explain why he’s emerged as one of baseball’s more intriguing prospects. He’s still rough around the edges with room to improve in all facets of the game, but the potential is there for a first-division regular at maturity.