The Pittsburgh Pirates are a franchise rich with young talent, some of who could be making an impact at the major-league level this season.
Gregory Polanco, the Pirates’ top prospect, isn’t quite ready for the bigs, but he’s a player to consider as a deep sleeper in the last few rounds of your fantasy baseball draft.
» Gregory Polanco, OF (current ADP: #336):
Thanks to a 94-68 record in 2013, the Pirates reached the postseason for the first time in 21 years. Much of that success can be attributed to their excellent drafting and farm system management.
22-year-old Gregory Polanco could be the 2014 version of Gerrit Cole — a player who gets called up midseason and has a huge impact in fantasy baseball leagues.
Like Cole, who didn’t debut with the Pirates until June 11, Polanco isn’t likely to make the Opening Day roster. He’ll begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis and get some more experience before a possible call-up around mid-June to early-July.
Fantasy owners everywhere (especially in keeper leagues) are anxious for Polanco to roam the PNC Park outfield, but the fact is, he’s just not ready yet.
He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 204 pounds, but in reality he’s closer to 6’5″, 230. This guy is a beast — and fast!
In 2012, while playing exclusively with Low-A West Virginia, Polanco was successful on 40 of his 55 stolen base attempts. He followed that up with 38 combined steals between High-A Brandenton, Double-A Altoona, and Triple-A Indianapolis in 2013.
Polanco didn’t hit for power (6 HR), or even a great average (.263), but he showed good plate discipline at the Double-A level last year, compiling a 1.00 BB/K ratio, which was good for 16th among all players with at least 250 plate appearances.
The counting stats are one reason why he is destined to be a mid-season call-up, but his maturity at the plate is the reason why fantasy owners shouldn’t be worried about the former.
The Pirates know that too, and are trying their best to make room for their young prospect — whether it is now or in the near future.
NBC Sports’ Hardball Talk is reporting that the team has been shopping outfielder Jose Tabata in an attempt to free up a roster spot for Polanco. Travis Snider is another player that they may consider moving, as well. Both Tabata and Snider have failed to live up to their once promising potential.
While he is surely rostered in keeper leagues, owners in redraft leagues could do much worse than gambling on Polanco in the 28th-30th round. You’d have to be willing to eat the roster spot for a month or two, but your patience could payoff come playoff time.
2014 Projections: .266/.329/.406, 9 HR, 42 RBI, 44 R, 20 SB
» Missed any of my earlier picks? Please click here for links to all the sleepers I’ve have covered from each team so far.