One of the hottest hitter in the Cubs’ system over the past 12 days is Eugene’s Gustavo Polanco. In that span, he’s hitting .404 with 1 HR, 8 RBI, and an OPS of 1.088. He, at one point, lead the Northwest League in five offensive categories. But doing a Google search of Gustavo Polanco produced very few results. Sure, you can find stats, but there are no interviews out there, no in depth scouting report, nor did I find any news articles that did anything but mention what he did that day. It is not as if he is a ghost or the Cubs just recently signed him. This is his third season as a Cub prospect.
Polanco grew up in Venezuela and was signed as an international free agent in 2014. For his first season in 2015, he played in the concluding season of the Venezuelan Summer League. Originally a catcher, he caught 28 games that year and played 11 at first base. He hit .282 in 53 games and only struck out 12 times in 195 at-bats. On the other hand, he only walked ten times.
In 2016, Polanco headed north to Mesa to partake in the Arizona Rookie League.
Luckily, his bat came with as Polanco lead the Cubs in hitting. In 46 games, he hit .322 with a .351 OBP. His low strikeout rate continued as he whiffed only 21 times in 185 at-bats. Then again, he only walked 5 times. Catching, though, was likely not going to be his full time gig. He played 18 games at first, 7 behind the plate and was the DH quite a bit.
Current Info: 6’0” 190 lbs.; 20 years old – Throws Right, Bats Right
Areas of Concern
Doesn’t take a lot of walks
I thought just based on last year that he would hit for a high average and, if all went well, he might hit a few more dingers. No magnificent jump in performance was foreseen
I did not expect him to use a scorched Earth policy towards Northwest League pitchers. Watching him hit is very interesting. He knows what zones and types of pitches he can hit. With two strikes, he often goes the other way. On Friday night, he ripped a two out double to right field. It was a thing of beauty. I think naturally, his swing is inside out.
Conversely, his offense is not his defense. He played catcher one game this year and gave up 7 SBs in just one game. I don’t think he is going to catch again, especially with Miguel Amaya on the team. 1B and DH look to be safe places for him.
I don’t think there is anything alarming that screams at you when looking at Polanco. He is going to hit, so let him hit. He has a proven track record of doing just that. I do find it odd that his K and BB rates are so low. While he has struck out 6 times so far in 44 at bats, he has yet to take a walk. Then again, those are very similar to last year’s rates.
Now, about getting more lift on the ball…
He is actually hitting fly balls at a career high rate at 47.2 %. That explains his extremely high OPS. Before this year, his career fly ball rate was 17.7%. His groundball rate was 60.5% last year. I think the power will come, but he is going to need to pull the ball some more. To date, he’s only pulled 25% of batted balls while 44.4% of his “battered” balls go to right.
He is not going to hit .400+ all year. He will level off, but I think he will hit .300+. At just 20-years-old, there is plenty of time for him to improve that walk rate and to work on getting more power.