Gregory Polanco has been tearing up Triple-A. That's just putting it nicely.
The 22-year-old outfielder has been giving pitchers headaches this season, posting a .347/.405/.540 triple-slash line with seven home runs and 49 runs batted in in 274 plate appearances. Even before this season, Polanco's talent was evident by many evaluators. He was ranked the 10th overall prospect by Baseball America, 13th by MLB.com, and 24th by Baseball Prospectus.
Many think the only thing that kept Polanco in the minor leagues this long was his own parent team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. They believed that he was still in Triple-A to make sure he cannot obtain Super Two status, enraging many fans who wanted, obviously, to see the team put the best out there every single day. The Pirates have kept Polanco in the minors for payroll reasons that will occur in two years.
A player who has at two years, but less than three, of service time is eligible to file for arbitration in the major leagues. He must have accumulated at least 86 days of service time in the previous season than his arbitration year, and rank in the top 17 percent player in service time. If he does, he can become a Super Two player, which means that he can negotiate his salary sooner than an average major leaguer.
The Pirates, in order to save money, have kept Polanco in Triple-A in order to keep him from obtaining Super Two status. Although the exact cutoff date for Super Two players is unknown, the Pirates used their best judgement as to when it would be safe to bring up Polanco and keep him from gaining a larger compensation in two seasons.
While this isn't exactly fair, the player has nothing he can do about it, except play well and wait. The Pirates haven't been having the best season, which is why many fans still are puzzled as to why they want to keep Polanco in the minors. He might be able to provide the spark needed to get back to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. And all the Pirates are doing is waiting to keep their payroll lower two years from now.
Sometimes injuries can be a Triple-A player's greatest omen. Second baseman Neil Walker went down with an appendectomy yesterday and they placed him on the 15-day disabled list today. They called up the outfielder Polanco in his place. Now he is batting second, playing right field, versus the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field tonight.
As a simple scouting report, Polanco is considered by many to be baseball's next five tool player. He is an above-average hitter for both contact and power, runs the bases very well, has a good arm, and covers good ground in the outfield. This is why so many Pirates fans are excited to see him debut and, hopefully, blossom into the star that many expect will come.
But, as it always does, it comes down to the money. And that will never change.
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