Spring Training Notes: Polanco Sticking With McCutchen and Marte

At the end of last week I posted a video of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco taking batting practice together. It was a nice sight to see those three rotating in the batting cages together, since they could eventually make up the best outfield trio in the majors. McCutchen is already an MVP, Marte posted a 4.6 WAR in his first full season, and Polanco looks like an impact talent who should arrive by mid-season 2014.

Polanco is the only player in that group who doesn’t project to make the Opening Day roster. The Pirates will send him to Triple-A to work on his hitting against upper level pitchers, get re-acclimated to playing in right field, and of course to keep his service time and Super Two status to the point where they will have him for an extra year of control, and won’t have to pay him a fourth year of arbitration. It has been interesting that Polanco has been paired so often with McCutchen, Marte, and the rest of the guys projected to make the Opening Day roster, since he doesn’t have that same projection. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the pairing was to keep Polanco with McCutchen and Marte.

“You’ve got one guy that speaks the language, does a little bit more English. You’ve got a guy, Polanco, following the trail that Marte established, which basically McCutchen established first,” Hurdle said. “They’re three in-house guys who continually move the chains, set the bar high, the work ethic is good. When you’ve got McCutchen in play — similar to Liriano and Volquez — you’ve got a guy like that leading the group daily in all activity. Keeps the flow at a very good pace, the intensity at a very good pace, and that’s basically just it.”

Eventually those three will be together in the PNC outfield for good. For now, it’s good to have them getting used to being together, and it provides a nice preview of the future.


**Jason Grilli has been preparing for the season slower than other pitchers this Spring. The approach is to maintain Grilli’s health and avoid burning him out early in the season. Hurdle talked today about when Grilli might be ready for game action.

“We’re still waiting a little bit,” Hurdle said on getting Grilli into game action. “He’s right on target with where we want him to be right now. We’re monitoring his progress, as well as everybody else’s, but he’s in a very good place.”

**”We don’t have any setbacks to this date,” Hurdle on the team, and specifically on Francisco Liriano being scheduled for only one inning in his start. Liriano will only throw one inning, as opposed to two for everyone else, because he threw two innings on the side the other day.

  • What jersey # was given to Polanco? I can’t see it in above photo. Just curious….

  • Tim, something I’ve been wondering: how do the Bucs handle the situation where Snyder and/or Tabata are having a really good year, and Polanco is crushing AAA? Do they just keep him in Indy? Do they move Snyder or Tabata?

  • Has anyone calculated the “cost” of bringing up a player before the Super 2 cutoff….

    I just looked at Fangraphs projections/depth chart for the Pirates – they have the Pirates in a very tight race for the wild card and totally exclude Taillon and only give Polanco 105 plate appearances.

    Obviously we have to get through Spring Training – but if both of these guys have good springs – they might be difference – 2-4 wins if they are up in late April or early May and perform as projected.

    That would mean a playoff game – and better attendance over the last month for a team in contention – versus one fighting it out with the Reds for second in the division,

    • Cato the Elder
      February 24, 2014 3:19 pm

      Unless I am missing something, the difference in 6 years of Super 2 eligible player vs a non Super 2 eligible players looks like approximately $25 million.


      So it might cost the Pirates roughly $50 million dollars for those for that extra month and a half of Polanco and Taillion.

      • Cato, great link, though I think y9ou are misreading it a bit. I think that story is saying the difference is about $11.5 mil per player ($22.4 – $10.9 mil).

        But I think this is distorted to some extent because for non-super 2s, they are using %increase of all eligible players. I’d think most of those players fall towards the low end (think Mazzaro, Gaby, Snider and Melancon for the Bucs) and it’s easier giving a 100% raise to guys making $1 and $2 mil than it is to guys making $4 and $5 mil.

        • Cato the Elder
          February 24, 2014 4:07 pm

          That is what I originally thought too – $11.5 – but then I changed my mind, because it seems unlikely that the last column (i.e. year 6) which shows about $10 could represent total earnings. But now my mistake is clear the side-by-side comparison is cummulative (i.e. $22.4 over the 6 years 10 in year 6…). good catch; my mistake. I was rushing through the article as I was in between jobs at a work.

          I hear what your saying about the pool of super 2 and non-super 2 not being equivalent, but I am not sure that it is skewed as much as you think – teams artificially hold back some of their best prospects, yeah? Here is a list of the super 2s for 2010.


          Here is the comprehensive list (note that not all players are in their first year):


          Without even scrolling far I’m seeing Adam Jones, Jacoby Ellsbury, Asdrubel Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder. Again, I don’t have a great (i.e. easy) way to quantify the underlying fundamental of the two samples (I don’t want to average it all by hand) but, the distortion (there is certainly some) is not straightforward.

    • Bruce, I’m sure somebody has done this calculation better, but a real quick back of the napkin looks like about $7.5 million. I’m getting this from Walker and Pedro since they have pretty similar OPS, and ignoring the glitzy stats difference (read HRs),

      As a Super 2, NW got $3.3 mil last year and $5.75 this year, an increase of $2.45 mil. Projecting that for 2 more years, I’m adding $3 mil and $3.5 mil raises so his total comes to $30.05 mil (3.3+5.75+8.75+12.25). We should also take that down the half mil he’d have made as league minimum last year, so say $29.55 mil.

      Pedro’s a little tougher since this is his first year of arb, and he got 4.25 mil. Assuming the same raises of $3 mil and $3.5 mil, his total will be $22.25 ($4.25+7.25+10.75).

      The difference comes to $7.3 mil, but again these are very rough guestimates.