That's the message coming out of Pirates camp during the winter meetings when the topic of filling the hole in the outfield was addressed to GM Neal Huntington. Polanco, the team's top hitting prospect, is capable of playing all three outfield positions.
Tim Williams of PiratesProspects.com reported on Tuesday that Huntington used the term "in-house" to describe the Pirates plan for their open outfield spot next season, which means last year's retreads along with the likes of newly acquired Jaff Decker and Polanco. The Pirates, however, are very cost and service-time-conscious and won't want to promote Polanco until well after the super-two deadline. Additionally, he has played just two games in Triple-A. For all of those reasons, Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Polanco is likely to start the 2014 season in Triple-A.
None of this comes as a surprise to anybody and is the right course of action both for the Pirates and Polanco, but it's interesting to hear Huntington come out and announce their plan now. The fact that he's already committing to it makes it less likely that the Pirates front office is swayed by Polanco's on-field talents this spring.
Polanco has torn through the minor leagues at a rapid pace, reaching the upper levels of the minor leagues last season at just 21 years of age. In addition to a plus hit tool and plus speed, Polanco controls the strike zone well and draws an acceptable amount of walks. He has played primarily center field in the minors, but the Pirates have wisely begun getting him accustomed to right field, as they have no plans to move MVP Andrew McCutchen from his position. An outfield featuring Polanco, McCutchen and Starling Marte would be among the best defensive outfields in all of baseball.
Polanco will need some time in Triple-A, having hit just .263 in his first taste of Double-A in 2013. Additionally, Polanco is still learning how to tap into his wiry power and how to use his plate discipline to set himself up to get into hitter's counts. None of these are concerns for the Pirates, however, and should all be worked out through the natural developmental process.
Polanco would be a prime candidate to wow his team in spring training and convince them to deviate from their long-term plan by calling him up earlier than planned because of the way his tools stand out on the field. The Pirates, however, have shown a strong discipline under the Huntington regime of waiting to promote prospects until they are ready and, more importantly, until it is best for them financially. They are unlikely to be swayed by Polanco's talents and should call him up some time in June, similarly to the way they did with Marte in 2012.