Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Contemplating Jorge Polanco

It has been quite the turnaround for Jorge Polanco.

The Twins shortstop homered twice Tuesday night, once from each side of the plate. He has nine homers on the season, six of them since Aug. 20.

He was 4-for-July, and two of those hits came in the first game of the month; after that, he was 2-for-47 for the month, a .043 batting average. It would be impossible for any shortstop to make up for such a lack of hitting with his glove, and Polanco isn't an Ozzie Smith afield. His playing time dwindled as Paul Molitor began rotating Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianaza at short.

Then the calendar switched. Polanco got a hit on Aug. 2, and that began a 10-game hitting streak. When that ended, he started an eight-game streak that included four straight games with home runs.

Molitor isn't rotating shortstops anymore. Not only is Polanco in the lineup daily, he's starting to appear in the middle of the order with some frequency. (And with Miguel Sano sidelined, one of the reserve infielders has to play third base anyway.)

The defensive metrics are split on Polanco at this point. Per Baseball Reference this morning, Polanco is well below average by Total Zone, exactly average by Defensive Runs Saved. That will work when his OPS is over 1.000, as it has been in August. But I think it remains a fair assessment that he's a second baseman stretched to play shortstop.

I am quite certain the Twins have better defensive shortstops working their way up the ladder. I am not so certain they will hit as well as Polanco. Polanco's midseason slump defied everything he'd done in his young professional career; he's hit at every level.

The front office will doubtless grapple with the middle infield questions this offseason. Do they trade one of the Polanco-Brian Dozier duo to clear room for a fresh shortstop, or wait? But that is a debate for later. They are going to ride this horse the rest of the season. Dozier and Polanco are not the greatest defensive middle infield in the league, but they can hit.

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