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Polanco's "Disappointing" Rookie Year May Make Him a 2015 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

By Tracy Proffitt from Lenoir, United States (Gregory Polanco #25 - West Virginia Power(2)) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsMike Trout's ascension from top prospect to best player on the planet back in 2012 had an enormous impact on fantasy owners--and not just the ones who had him on their rosters. Trout's incredible performance at an age when most players are still working their way through the low minors served to increase scrutiny of prospects and rookies by owners looking for the next big star. It's always more fun to bet big on potential than on a boring veteran whose ceiling is established, but acquiring young guns comes at a steeper price than it used to.

Still, this situation creates its own buying opportunity:when a prospect doesn't immediately take the world by storm, there's a much higher likelihood of a profit on your investment in next year's draft, simply because there will be fewer competitors for that player's services. There are several players whose 2014 debuts were considered disappointments, but the one I'll be buying most often is Gregory Polanco.

The Pirates chose to keep Polanco in the minors initially for service time considerations, creating a frenzy in fantasy leagues when he was finally called up on June 10. And through his first few weeks, he seemed to justify the righteous anger of fans who felt he should have been in the majors on Opening Day with a .301/.393/.419 triple-slash line through July 4. After that, though, he struggled to make an impact, earning a demotion in August. Polanco returned when rosters expanded, but his job was no longer waiting for him, as Travis Snider had taken over in right field. Polanco finished the season at .235/.307/.343, with 7 HR and 14 SB. So the category juice was there, even if the rate stats left us wanting. That's a 15/30 pace over a full season, which only two players managed last season. Those players? Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Gomez.

His .272 BABIP seems rather low for a guy with his speed and batted ball profile (19.1 line drive percentage and 1.58 GB/FB ratio). That tends to happen when over a third of your fly balls are of the infield variety. Polanco, like many young lefties, also struggled mightily against southpaws, posting a putrid .466 OPS in 82 AB. Those numbers need to improve for Polanco to take the next step, but there's also a lot to like here, namely the plate discipline. Polanco walked nearly 10 percent of the time and had a K rate of just under 19 percent, both of which were better than the MLB average. His contact rates were right around league average as well. It's clear that Polanco has a good grasp of the zone.

There's a reason we were all so anxious for Polanco to finally get the call last year. There's a reason the Pirates offered him a seven year deal with three (!) option years. There's a reason that Polanco wouldn't sign it. Polanco's a special talent, and an early bump in the road doesn't change that. After all, even Mike Trout's first crack at the majors didn't go so well either.

Buy low on Polanco--while you still can.

 





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