Shortstop is known as a “deep” position this year. You have superstars like Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Francisco Lindor all crowding the top of most lists. Assuming you don’t grab an elite shortstop early, what are your options late? One late option that I would endorse is Minnesota’s shortstop Jorge Polanco. His Fantrax ADP is 257.44. One could be forgiven for not knowing his name, as despite the playoff appearance in 2017, the Twins have not been relevant the last few years.
There are many strong offensive players on this young team and that is part of what makes Jorge Polanco valuable for your fantasy team. You have stalwarts such as Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer, and up and comers like Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario. Polanco belongs in the latter group, being only 25 years old coming into the season.
Polanco got his first real taste of the Major Leagues in the 2016 season, batting .282 with 4 homers and 4 steals in 69 games. Nothing big to write home about, but a solid debut nonetheless. The underlying stats had their pluses and minuses. He had a measly 23.5% hard contact rate, but had a decent .328 BABIP, largely due to his speed. He only struck out 17% of the time while walking 6.3%. The strikeouts certainly were encouraging in a day where many rookies strike out a large amount of the time.
So why am I high on Jorge Polanco for the 2018 season? The improvements he made in addition to his second half. In 2017, he batted .256 with 13 homers and 13 steals to go with 74 RBI. The RBI total was a direct impact of him batting in the 3rd part of the order more than any other batting slot. If he continues to hit in the middle of the Twins lineup, his counting stats should be very solid in 2018. His strikeout rate also fell to 14.3%, a 3.6% fall over his 2016 season, while his walk rate improved 1.2%. Both these improvements give a lot of credence to his improvement in 2017.
His 2017 season was a tale of two halfs. His first half he batted .224 with 3 home runs and 6 steals. The Twins (and everyone else) had to be wondering if he was their shortstop of the future at that point of the season. Then came the second half, Polanco batted .293 with 10 homers and 7 steals. So where did the improvement come from? Well for one, his walk rate went from 6.6% in the first half to 8.8% in the second half, so he saw the ball better. Also, his BABIP normalized, going from .250 to .313. His hard contact rate only rose 1%, which does raise some questions about his power. However, with his speed, he should be anywhere between a .300-.330 BABIP hitter and that’s what he was in 2016 and the second half of 2017.
His hard contact rate rose by around 4% over his 2016 stats. Polanco continues to improve his batting profile as he ages. He won’t be a 20 home run guy, because that is not the player he has shown himself to be, in the Minors or the Majors, but he could be a 15/15 guy with 70+ RBI in the Twins lineup. This is terrific value for where he is taken in fantasy drafts. The Twins future is bright, and Jorge Polanco will be a big part of that going forward.
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