PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Coming soon to a Major League ballpark near you: Gregory Polanco.
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ top prospect, now playing for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, is set to become the next big thing in Pittsburgh.
“He’s the most natural star in the making that I’ve ever watched in the minor leagues,” says Indians broadcaster Will Flemming.
Polanco is leading the International League in hitting by nearly 40 points, with an average just shy of .400.
“When you’re hitting .400,” Polanco told KDKA-TV Sports. “That’s very high. So, that’s something good for me, and I feel good.”
The first thing you notice when you see Polanco for the very first time is not his hitting, or his fielding.
It’s his running.
- Full Polanco Interview (Part 1)
Impossibly long strides stretch Polanco’s 6-foot-4-inch body from base-to-base in what seems like six or seven steps.
“He came up at the end of last year,” says Indianapolis hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo. “I couldn’t believe how few strides he takes to get down to first base.”
“One stride of his equals about three for an average player,” Flemming says.
But, it’s not just his speed that impresses. It’s his hitting, his power, his defense and his arm. The kid has it all, to the point where Polanco could, and probably should be in the majors right now.
So, why isn’t he?
“I don’t know,” Polanco said. “I just have to do my job and keep working hard and keep batting. Do my best every day.”
“I think I’m ready to play whenever they put me. So, I just have to keep working and see what happens later.”
- Full Polanco Interview (Part 2)
The real reason is money. Due to the way baseball contracts are structured, by starting the season with Polanco in the minors, the Pirates gained an extra year of contractual control. By keeping him down there until June, the Pirates could save upwards of $15 million in the future.
But, that’s not to say Polanco can’t benefit from the extra time in the minors.
“There’s a big difference between Triple-A and Major League Baseball,” Pagliarulo said. “The real difference is pitching.”
Still, it won’t be long before we see an outfield in Pittsburgh consisting of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.
“Sometimes I think about it,” Polanco said. “I think that’s [going to] be a big thing. Marte, McCutchen, they can be Gold Glovers. It will be hard for hitters to get a double or triple.”
“Sometimes I look back from where I came and I think, ‘I’m so far away from where I was.’ I’m very close to making it to my dream. It’s exciting for me. I feel proud of myself.”