Despite strong spring, top Bucs prospect Polanco optioned to Triple-A
BRADENTON, Fla. — There was not much more Gregory Polanco could have done this spring to make his case for the starting right-field job.
The Pirates' top prospect posted an .804 on-base plus slugging percentage as a 22-year-old in major league camp. He homered in the first at-bat of his first start of the spring against the Yankees.
He scorched doubles against major league starting pitchers in Detroit's Rick Porcello and Philadelphia's A.J. Burnett. He often hit in the No. 3 hole. He showcased all five of his tools.
Yet Friday, the Pirates optioned Polanco — baseball's No. 10 overall prospect according to Baseball America — to Triple-A.
Part of the reasoning is tied to economic realities as the Pirates can extend their control over Polanco and avoid paying him an extra year of arbitration by delaying his arrival. But the Pirates also want their prized prospect to earn more seasoning.
At the winter meetings, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Polanco would not begin the year with the major league club.
“Our goal is to put him in a position not to just make the major league team but to help us win games,” Huntington said Friday.
“He's ahead of the curve for a guy with less than 300 plate appearances above the A-ball level, but he still has some work to do. … Whether it's gaining experience in facing better changeups in offensive counts, better breaking balls in offensive counts, understanding how to handle the fastball away.
“He has so much ability. He has worked so hard. The improvements he's made over the last two years are like few that I've seen.”
While Polanco has just 295 plate appearances above Single-A, he logged 265 more in the competitive Dominican winter league where he earned top rookie and MVP honors.
The demotion did not come as a surprise to Polanco.
“They told me in the beginning in the spring,” Polanco said of starting the year in Triple-A. “They want me seeing more older pitchers in Triple-A. They are a lot better than Double-A and Single-A (pitchers).”
The Pirates will open the season with either Travis Snider, Jose Tabata or Jaff Decker in right field or perhaps a combination of those players.
But Pirates manager Clint Hurdle concluded Friday's meeting with Polanco with an important message.
Said Polanco: “(Hurdle) said ‘I want to see you as soon as I can.' ”
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and several scouts were impressed with Bryan Morris' effort against Tampa Bay on Thursday.
Morris threw two innings of shutout relief that included three strikeouts. Morris showcased a sharp slider that touched 90 mph, according to a scout.
“We like Bryan Morris,” Hurdle said. “The command improved. The quality of the pitches improved. He has more velocity.”
While Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson are assured of bullpen spots, Morris, Stolmy Pimentel, Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro are out of options and are competing for perhaps three roster spots.
Odds and ends
Reliever Duke Welker was optioned to Triple-A. ... Francisco Liriano threw four innings and reached 70 pitches in a minor league game ... Jameson Taillon (blister) was also scheduled to throw.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kang’s 9th-inning home run gives Pirates wild victory over Twins
- Pirates notebook: Prospect Tucker unaware of ‘trade’ frenzy
- Pirates’ Liriano unaffected by poor last outing against Twins
- Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 29, 2015
- Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
- Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
- Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
- Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
- Pirates trade for familiar face in Ramirez
- Pirates minor league report: Moore a breakout star in Morgantown
- Starting 9: Pirates help and the illusion of help