Minnesota Twins: Jorge Polanco’s Great Year flying under the Radar

Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins throws during game two of the Wild Card Series. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins throws during game two of the Wild Card Series. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

In 2019, Jorge Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League All-Star team after an incredible start to his year. After a tough end to 2019 and an okay 2020, Polanco was starting to look less and less like that player that was supposed to be a star for the Minnesota Twins.

He started the 2021 season at a new position with renewed health. The move to second base looked to be a perfect fit given his range and arm, and his oft-injured ankle appeared healed after two years of discomfort. He was going to have a chance to start anew.

Unfortunately, like almost everything else related to the injury-filled Minnesota Twins’ current season, things went awry very quickly. Jorge started the season well but then fell into a horrific slump. He did not look like the sharp-hitting middle infielder of years’ past.

To top it off, his defense was also a liability. When he played deep, the lip where the infield dirt met the outfield grass was not his friend. He looked very uncomfortable at his new position. But for all of Polanco’s struggles early on, his shortcomings were not the biggest problem with the Minnesota Twins. That distinction would fall to a game of “take your pick.”

Was is it the gasoline-infused bullpen? Or was it the matador-like team defense? Perhaps it was the back of rotation explosion? Or was it the felonious lack of clutch hitting? Whatever it was, Jorge’s play was clearly not the biggest problem with the team.

When the team was clearly out of contention for a postseason berth, something else became the focus. At that point, the talk surrounded the shell game of “who will get traded and where will they go.”

Does Nelson Cruz get traded to the Rays or the Blue Jays? Will Jose Berrios leave in return for some top prospects? Will they move a starter like J.A. Happ or Michael Pineda? This is all that the pundits and fans could talk about as the trade deadline drew near.

As the players were unloaded, the trade deadline passed, and the smoke cleared, the Minnesota Twins were left to pick up the remaining pieces. Prospects were added and a youth movement has gotten underway, and this has led fans to take a look at all the rest of the organization, with one quiet truth emerging: Jorge Polanco is having a monstrous second half of the season.

In the last twenty-eight games, Jorge has a slash line of .356/.402/.678 with an OPS of 1.080. During that time, he has hit 8 home runs, knocked in 22 runs, and scored 19 times. Not too shabby at all for a guy who was hitting .230 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI on June 1st.

In addition, Polanco has become more comfortable at his new position. In the last 29 games, he has only committed one error in the field and has been a stalwart on defense. He’s made several highlight-reel plays and is coordinating well with new shortstop Andrelton Simmons. He has even picked up some tricks from Simmons on how to get his throws off quicker.

So much of Polanco’s improvement this season is attributable to his right ankle finally being healthy. He underwent surgery in two successive off seasons and he has gotten healthier as the season has progressed.

As Minnesota Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli said: “It’s something that he’s struggled with over a long period of time, and now he’s feeling good, he’s feeling healthy and it’s allowing him to have the kinds of at-bats and swings and forceful swings that he’s capable of.”

For the dumpster fire that has been the Minnesota Twins’ season in 2021, Jorge Polanco’s play has quietly been one of the brightest highlights. After battling injuries the past couple of seasons and a slow start to this year, Polanco looks like he’s returning to the form that made him an All-Star in 2019. He clearly looks like the Twins MVP of 2021 and his future with the team once again looks very bright.

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