Gregory Polanco keeps hitting. The top prospect went 4-for-4 tonight with his second home run of the year in just 38 at-bats. On the season he is hitting for a .500 average. It’s only 38 at-bats, so it still falls in the small sample size window, but it’s still impressive.
We aren’t yet to the point in the season where a team can call up a prospect while gaining an extra year of control from that player. Teams would have to wait until April 20th to call up a player and get an extra year of control. However, if a team called up a player on April 20th, he would end up being a Super Two player, giving him an extra year of arbitration.
A month ago I wrote about the cost of Super Two status, pointing out that studies have shown it adds an additional $10-15 M for players who are projected to be impact players in the majors. At this point, I think we can agree that Polanco projects to be an impact player down the line.
The cost of bringing Polanco up now, as opposed to waiting until the second week in June, is that $10-15 M over the long-term. Since the Pirates would be getting Polanco from June to the end of the season under either scenario, that cost only applies to his time over the next two months. So what would Polanco have to do in those two months to justify that expense?
The updated cost of a win above replacement level is up for debate, but most have it between $5-6 M per win. For this purpose, let’s put it at $5.5 M. Polanco would need to be worth between 2-3 WAR in that two month period to justify his future $10-15 M expense. Over a full season, that 2-3 WAR pace per two months would need to amount to a 6-9 WAR season. Last year there were only 12 hitters in baseball who had a WAR of 6.0 or better.
But that’s if Polanco is taking over for a replacement level player. He’s not. Travis Snider is currently doing well, and if we extrapolate his early season success over the course of a full season, you get a 1.4 WAR. And you might doubt that Snider can do this, but I don’t think you can argue for calling Polanco up based on a small sample size, then suggest Snider won’t continue because of a small sample size.
Polanco needs a 2-3 WAR over the next two months to justify the $10-15 M Super Two cost. But if you factor in what the Pirates are projected to get from Snider during those months, you would need to add about half a win. That means Polanco would need to be a 2.5-3.5 WAR player in the next two months to justify the extra Super Two costs. Once again, if we stretch that out over a full season, Polanco would be a 7.5-10.5 WAR player.
Basically, for Polanco to be worth the extra Super Two amount, he would have to play like the 2013 Carlos Gomez (7.6 WAR) over the next two months if you’re using the $10 M value; or like Mike Trout in 2013 (10.4 WAR) if you’re using the $15 M value.
A realistic scenario for Polanco would be for him to match Andrew McCutchen’s production in 2009. McCutchen had a 3.3 WAR in four months. That’s about a 1.7 WAR over a two month period. If you subtract the half a win Snider is on pace to produce during that time, you get 1.2 WAR extra out of Polanco over that two month period. At $5.5 M per win, that would put Polanco at $6.6 M in value over those two months, and this is assuming he has the same value McCutchen had when he came up. But obviously that value would fall short of the projected $10-15 M extra cost for a Super Two player.
Links and Notes
**The Adjustments Andrew Lambo is Making After His Slow Start. Our new Indianapolis writer, Ryan Palencer, takes a look at what Andrew Lambo has been working on since being optioned to Triple-A.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.