Say whatever you want about the Pittsburgh Pirates and them spending money at the major league level, there is no denying what they’ve invested in the draft and their international spending.
One such instance was when they signed Shalin Polanco to a $2.35 million signing bonus, which was the second highest total given out at the time.
The toolsy outfielder was rated as the 11th best international free agent by MLB Pipeline during the 2020-21 signing period.
He remained in the Dominican Summer League in 2021, where he struggled, slashing .204/.284/.338 with a 77 wRC+. He did post a decent walk rate of 10.2%, but did strike out 25% of his 176 plate appearances.
Polanco hit three home runs, totaling 12 extra-base hits, stealing six bases and driving in 22 runs.
Despite the struggles, the Pirates sent him stateside for the 2022 season, playing in 37 games in the Florida Complex League, posting a much better looking slash of .250/.324/.371, hitting three home runs once again — in fewer plate appearances — but did see his strikeout rate climb a bit (27%), with his walks dropping as well (8.1 BB%).
PITT OF prospect Shalin Polanco sends this deep into RF for the Home Run. This guy has put on a show down here at the complexes. Check out that cut. Pitcher Yonatan Pineda, welcome to FL pic.twitter.com/xtxRaxHEd5
— Eric_Birdland (@Eric_Birdland) May 12, 2022
So what’s next for Polanco as we enter the 2023 season?
Polanco was recently pegged as a potential breakout prospect in the Pirates system by MLB Pipeline, which isn’t really surprising due to his skillset.
He also doesn’t turn 19 until February, so he’s conceivably young enough to spend another year in the FCL so he can continue to work on making more consistent contact.
The Pirates have, however, been very aggressive over the last couple of seasons when it comes to some of their younger, higher upside prospects.
Two years ago, Maikol Escotto, Dariel Lopez, and Alexander Mojica were among names to make their full season debuts as teenagers. Lopez played a key part in the middle of the lineup as the Marauders won the division in 2021.
This past season, Carlos Jimenez, Bubba Chandler, and Anthony Solometo played the majority of the season with the Marauders before they turned 20. Their first round pick in 2022, Termarr Johnson, was pushed to Bradenton at 18-years-old with very little time in the FCL.
Regardless of where Polanco starts the year in 2023, it will be a big year for the young outfielder. With so much invested in him, the Pirates will be patient, but at some point he will need of that raw talent to start translating onto the field.
Highlight of the Day
Shalin Polanco ladies and gentlemen! Such a gorgeous swing for such a young kid. pic.twitter.com/mpYygmZKpJ
— Cody Potanko (@2HG013) August 22, 2021
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.