The Minnesota Twins witnessed a surprising season from Jorge Polanco in 2018. What does the shortstop need to do in 2018 to take the next step?
The Minnesota Twins should end their string of new Opening Day shortstops this season. Jorge Polanco is poised to be pencilled into the lineup in Baltimore for Opening Day as the Twins shortstop for the second year in a row. Polanco will become the first shortstop to do that since Pedro Florimon did the same thing at the start of the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Polanco will also be only the second consecutive Opening Day shortstop since 2005. Maybe better known as the end of Cristian Guzman era.
Polanco surprised many at his ability to man his position in 2017. As a prospect, everyone knew he would likely be able to develop his bat and become a quality hitter. The biggest question for Polanco has been whether his defense would be strong enough to allow to remain at shortstop. As the Twins look ready to make a run at the World Series in 2018, there are signs that Polanco may be poised to take steps forward with both his bat and glove to help the team in those efforts.
One of the first keys to Polanco will be consistent on the offensive side of the ball throughout the season. Through June 15th in 2017, Polanco provided some solid offense slashing .254/.300/.354 providing 11 doubles and drove in 22 runs. Soon July would be upon the Twins and Polanco’s production disappeared. The shortstop only collected 4 hits through all of July and would have likely been demoted if he had any minor league options left.
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Then August would come and Polanco went on a tear and hit .373/.413/.686 and was a large part of the Twins surge to secure a Wild Card position. What the Twins need from Polanco into 2018 is consistency at the plate. What that may look like are the numbers Polanco produced o close the season. He settled back in at .260/.345/.423 to close the season. The Twins aren’t relying on Polanco to be the August version of himself, but they do need a consistent bat from their shortstop position. Improvement from Polanco will only make their lineup that much scarier, something that the 24 year old should be very capable of.
While consistency is the need, and improvement the luxury regarding Polanco’s offense. Defensive improvements really become more of a need for the Twins from their young shortstop. The positive is that from 2016 to 2017, Polanco did seem to take some significant steps forward in his defensive performance. Polanco’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) increased from -8 to -1. According to Inside Edge Fielding percentages, he slightly improved his “routine” play percentage from 94.9% to 96.4%, “even” plays from 33.3% to 54.5%, and “unlikely” plays from 16.7% to 30.0%.
In 2018, Polanco needs to continue to stay consistent with the routine plays. Then he needs to take some steps in the way of the more difficult plays. Polanco should look to improve on what is labeled as “likely” plays according to Inside Edge. From 2016 to 2017, Polanco performed slightly worse in that category completing 61.5% of those plays in 2017. If Polanco can look to improve his percentage in that category by around 10%, he could improve his DRS by a couple runs. That would put him in the company of players like Didi Gregorius and Zack Cozart.
Polanco is one of the young players the Twins need to continue and see improvements from if they want to be favorites for a championship in 2018. Consistency at the plate and improved defense will do two things for the young shortstop. Fend off any conversations about a Nick Gordon call up and increase the level of conversation about a potential contract extension.