If I told you at the start of the 2012 season that a West Virginia Power corner OF had a triple slash line of .304/.351/.528 (879 OPS, 224 ISO), you would be ecstatic that Josh Bell was having such a great breakout season.
But Josh Bell has been out since April 24 after surgery on his torn meniscus and was largely ineffective in his playing time before that. That stat line shown above belongs to the very age-appropriate 20 year old, Gregory Polanco. Not only does Polanco have 7 HR (tied for 3rd in the league), but he also has 10 steals (tied for 13th — there’s a lot of speedsters in the SAL). Using the ever-popular “on pace” calculator, Polanco would turn in a 28 HR/40 steal season.
Odds he actually does that? Not great. But even if he turns in a 20 HR/25 SB season, that would be a fantastic season for the 2009 international signee that last year turned in a 694 OPS in the Gulf Coast League. Polanco only had 11 extra-base hits in 169 AB’s (124 ISO), but was a perfect 18 for 18 in stolen bases, so it was very easy to place him into the no-bat/high-steal bin for outfielders (think Nyjer Morgan). Polanco has the frame at 6′-4″ to add a few “el bees” to his current listed weight of 170 pounds, further increasing his power potential.
Much of the focus on West Virginia has been on Alen Hanson (and rightly so), but the case could be made that Polanco has been the better overall player to this point. While Hanson had the ridiculously unreal April, he has been somewhat pedestrian in May (1137 OPS in April, 731 OPS in May). Polanco on the other hand had a well-above-the-line April (838 OPS) and has followed that up with a fantastic May (989 OPS).
There is plenty of room for Polanco to move up to High A Bradenton if he continues this pace in early June. None of the current OF’s at Bradenton are putting up great numbers. If Wes Freeman continues to struggle at the plate (516 OPS), a swap of Polanco and Freeman would be conceivable, especially considering that Freeman essentially skipped over Low A without ever having success at the level.
Polanco’s surprising breakout season allows the Pirates to potentially add yet another OF prospect to the mix with Marte, Grossman, and Bell. And that is always a good problem to have.