With the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book finally heading towards rapid completion, it is time to get back on full track here at Minor League Ball. Today we resume the Prospect of the Day feature. Our first subject is Minnesota Twins infield prospect Jorge Polanco. He might be obscure to the average fan, but Polanco has all the markers of a breakout prospect and is off to an excellent start in 2014.
In 2009 the Twins made a big splash by signing power-mashing prospect Miguel Sano for $3,150,000 out of the Dominican Republic. Sano wasn't the only bonus baby on Minnesota's radar: they also signed Jorge Polanco out of the Dominican for $775,000. Polanco was more of a defense-first type, although scouts felt he also had good offensive potential if he filled out his body and got stronger. That took time: he hit just .223/.299/.301 in the Gulf Coast League in '10, followed by a .250/.319/.349 mark in a return engagement in '11.
2012 was different: Polanco was maturing physically, going from 5-10, 160 when signed to 5-11, 180. Enhanced size and strength resulted in dramatically improved .318/.388/.514 mark for Elizabethton in the Appalachian League. He was driving the ball more effectively while maintaining solid strike zone judgment.
Polanco remained strong in '13, hitting .308/.362/.452 with 32 doubles, 10 triples, 42 walks, and 59 strikeouts in 465 at-bats for Low-A Cedar Rapids in the Midwest League. He's confirmed that breakout with an even hotter start in '14, batting .351/.448/.474 with nine walks and just five strikeouts in 57 at-bats for High-A Fort Myers in the Florida State League.
Polanco is a switch-hitter, now listed at 5-11, 185, born July 5, 1993. Although he's been around awhile, he's still just 20 years old, making him more than two and a half years younger than the average player in the Florida State League. He has a good sense of the strike zone, avoids excess strikeouts and will also take a walk. Although he isn't going to be a big home run hitter, he shows good punch into the gaps and should produce plenty of doubles. He's hit .300+ consistently since getting out of the Gulf Coast League and is expected to continue hitting for average.
Currently the starting shortstop for Fort Myers, Polanco is stretched at the position and I think he fits better at second base in the long run. He split time between the two positions last year in Cedar Rapids and looked more comfortable at second, where his hands and range play better. His running speed has declined with maturity and he is not a significant stolen base threat.
Polanco has some limitations but his combination of on-base ability, contact hitting skills, and gap power looks impressive to me. If he remains this hot, he'll certainly reach Double-A later this year