I write about the National League for Fridays, generally about "deep league advice" - guys who are really scarcely owned who for one reason or another shouldn't be. It's kind of a schedule I stumbled into last year, but it's been the case ever since, and it works, such as it is.
Anyway, my basic process for this is that every Thursday, I bring up the Yahoo! player list in one of my leagues, sort it by ownership percentage, and click through several pages until I get to the guys who are 25-percent owned or less. Then it's just a brainstorming session - "Oh, hey, should I mention that Ike Davis is a prime change-of-scenery candidate?" (By the way, yes, and he's 12 percent owned, and go get him.) Or "The Cubs seem determined to give Mike Olt the third-base job, and he's only 4 percent owned, hmmmm..." (Also yes, also go get him.)
For the last few weeks, though, I've frozen on one name for a few minutes before deciding "Nah, now isn't the time." Screw it, though, today is the day. Today, I write about the guy I've been wanting to mention all season.
Today, I write about Gregory Polanco.
There are a couple of reasons I've waited on Polanco, the uber-prospect of the Pittsburgh Pirates. For one, we have a whole host of good prospect writery guys at Fake Teams, and I'm not one of them - I'm far better (such as it is) as the big-league stuff than the sorting-out-the-Sally-League pieces that Jason, Andrew, Matt, and Brain have been rocking out on. For another, there's a certain level of bandwagoning in talking Polanco now; George Springer just came up, so it's only natural to say "Well who's next?!"
Regardless, I can no longer resist. The final tipping point came Wednesday, when Ray (our Fake Teams godfather) tweeted this:
The Pirates fell to 6.5 games out of first place, a game out of last. How soon before Gregory Polanco gets called up? I think early May.— Ray Guilfoyle (@faketeams) April 24, 2014
For all the talk about the Arizona Diamondbacks' disastrous start to the season - and yeah, it's been disastrous - the Pirates have been a near-disaster in their own right, scuffling to a 9-13 record that sits as the fifth-worst in all of baseball. Jose Tabata and Travis Snider, the team's current right fielders, are doing Tabata and Snider things: Tabata is hitting .213/.260/.255 with no homers or steals, while Snider sits at .250/.328/.400 and has homered three times. Tabata is underperforming a bit, while Snider is overperforming, but overall both guys are the type of players you put in your lineup as a placeholder - "Well, the rest of our roster is good, so Tabata and Snider won't kill us while we look for an upgrade."
Meanwhile, Polanco is in Triple-A Indianapolis and is making it look like Jon Bois has started messing with baseball video games now. His slash line sits at .403/.439/.623 through 19 games, with three homers, three steals, and almost three hits for every strikeout. He's a centerfield-capable fielder who, once he reaches the bigs, will be shuttled into right, meaning he's overqualified on defense as well. (Seriously, though: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Polanco? Lord help any fly balls.)
No one can say with any real level of confidence that Polanco will be a world-beater when he gets the call. It looks good, but it's looked good for lots of guys. I can't tell you to pick him up now, put him in your starting lineup when he does get the call, and reap Trout-ian rewards. But at this point, it's a "when" scenario, not an "if." The Pirates will be calling Polanco up. Maybe, like Nolan Arenado last year, it will be a day after I write about him, which, I've gotta tell you, made me feel super intelligent. Or maybe they'll keep rolling with the Snider/Tabata combination and hold tight until the Super Two deadline, and Polanco kicks it on fantasy benches and/or waiver wires until mid-June.
But, while we don't know the exact percentage, he will be up for a good chunk of this 2014 season. Someone putting up a .403/.439/.623 at any reasonable level that you might have to wait on for a few weeks is a better use of a spare roster spot than, I don't know, Grady Sizemore or Marlon Byrd. Polanco is owned in 14 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now. Heck, Oscar Taveras is owned in 20, and he (a) keeps getting hurt, (b) hasn't put up the numbers Polanco has, and (c) doesn't even have an obvious route to a roster spot right now.
When you look at Taveras' arrival in the big leagues, you have to do some advanced math:
Well, he can play in right against lefties, if they bench Matt Adams then, but wait, Taveras is a lefty as well. Maybe they put him in center, where Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay have been awful, but then you're putting an oft-injured outfielder in center, surrounded by two wood-gloved slow-foots, asking him to be a savior on offense and a stalwart on defense while trying to keep his ankles healthy. Maybe they scramble it all in a hat and draw out lineups in a random order.
Meanwhile, Polanco's math is much simpler:
Polanco here. Tabata and Snider no more play.
For a prospect, a line on a job is at least as important as proving worth. Ask 2013 Jurickson Profar, who spent much of the year in Texas without any sort of job. For that reason, if not the "look at their minor-league stats" one, Polanco is a better bet for right now than Taveras. And he's a better bet than Snider and Tabata. As I've said many times, if you wait for a Polanco-type prospect to come up before adding him, what you're really doing is telling your leaguemates "Nah, one of you take him." This is one of those fortune-favors-the-bold situations.
And, if I waited another week to write about him, and he came up on Monday or something, I'd never forgive myself. So here! Now it's out.