Coming into the 2014 season, Gregory Polanco was rated as the top hitting prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates system and the #10 MLB prospect by Baseball America. As for fantasy, he most likely started the year on the free agent wire in your yearly league, but an owner may have taken a late round flier on him. If you play in a keeper league, he was certainly owned (or should have been). Owners who were wise to hold onto him or add him prior to call up have certainly been enjoying the ride. Polanco just reached 100 at-bats at the MLB level this past Fourth of July weekend, so let’s take a look at his numbers so far and gaze into the crystal ball to see what the second half of 2014 has in store.
In 25 MLB games, Polanco has hit .287 with 3 HR, 20 runs scored and 13 RBI. He has rounded out his game by stealing 4 bases in 6 attempts. Before his call, Polanco was absolutely destroying AAA pitching. In 62 games, he was batting .347 with 7 HR, 49 RBI, 47 runs scored and 15 steals for good measure. More importantly, Polanco is showing patience at the plate, walking 12.8% of the time, an improvement over his 8.8% in AAA. His K-rate is in line with his AAA stats, 16.1% in AAA to 17.1% in MLB.
While his 3 home runs have all been to RF, Polanco has done a nice job of spraying line drives all around the ballpark. According to his Spray Chart on Fangraphs, Polanco has been 7 for 10 on line drives to the left of second base, while he has been 6 for 8 on line drives to the right of second base. His BABIP is .333, which is 21 points higher than the Pirates team average (.312) but not out of line for a solid average hitter. With his speed and above mentioned ability to hit to all fields, I do not expect to see a marked decline.
So, what should fantasy owners expect from Polanco the rest of the way? Our updated ranks are coming out next week and I feel that I aggressively ranked Polanco as the 52nd overall hitter (20th outfielder). The Pirates do play fewer games at home than on the road the rest of the way (32 home games, 43 road games). While they are a more productive offensive team at home (and pitching team as well), batting 30 points higher and scoring more runs, they still have home series with the Marlins (a worse team on the road than home), San Diego and Chicago Cubs. With 75 games to go, I expect that Polanco should project to approach 10 HR (meaning another 6-7 are on the way), steal 12-14 bases (so another 10 swipes) and finish with an average around .290. Of course, he could slump and miss these numbers or he could improve on his early success and exceed them. Obviously, with my ranking, I expect that he will outperform these numbers, rewarding owners who took an early risk on the prospect.