July 2009: Polanco signed with the Twins organization, via scout Fred Guerrero. Jorge received a $750,000 bonus.
Jorge grew up in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, along with Miguel Sano, his teammate at various times since they were 12 years old. His favorite player was Robinson Cano.
The Twins hired Fred Guerrero as Dominican scouting supervisor in 2004 and he watched for a class talented enough to convince his superiors to spend more money internationally.
In the class of 2009, Guerrero found what he was looking for. Two shortstops from San Pedro de Macoris, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco, caught Guerrero’s eye and became the targets of his pursuit.
Both Polanco and Sano lived in San Pedro de Macoris. As the Twins’ top scout in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero made sure to check on Polanco whenever he was in town to see Sano.
Polanco was 15 years old and weighed 140 pounds at the time. Only a few other teams were interested in him. Guerrero, however, made sure to cultivate a relationship.
“Even though he was young and weak and skinny, he was effortless in the way he went about his game,” Guerrero said. “Even against older kids he was advanced enough that he would compete against them.”
The Twins signed him on July 6, Polanco’s 16th birthday. (Kyle Glaser - Baseball America - July 2020)
In 2010, Baseball America rated Polanco as the 31st-best prospect in the Twins' farm system. They moved Jorge all the way up to #17 in the winter before 2011 spring training. He was at #28 in the offseason before 2012 spring camps opened. Then they moved Jorge up to #14 in the spring of 2013. And he was at #10 in the winter before 2014 spring training.
In 2015, they had Jorge ranked as 8th-best prospect in the Twins' organization. Then at #6 for 2016.
Jorge's work ethic and leadership qualities are impressive. Quiet and intelligent, he has a strong work ethic, a grinder’s mentality and is quite coachable. And, he's a great teammate.
Polanco simply had to add physical strength. He was so slight that he could not play every day in the field or at the plate. He just word down with the grind of pro baseball.
But he added strength, and in 2012, had a breakout year with the bat. He was sixth in the Appalachian League in batting (.318), fifth in on-base percentage (.388) and was even fourth in slugging (.514).
2014 MLB rookie season: The 20-year-old was the second-youngest player in the American League behind Rangers rookie Rougned Odor. And he became the first Twins player since 1982 to skip over both Double-A and Triple-A ball en route to the Majors.
Jorge is even-keeled, so he is not going to be bothered by anything when he gets to the Majors for good. (June, 2015)
Oct 26, 2017: Polanco's wife, Lucero, gave birth to Jorge Jr. in New York City.
March 18-July 1, 2018: Polanco received an 80-game suspension from MLB for a performance-enhancing substance. Polanco tested positive for Stanozolol, which is a violation of the league's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. His suspension will begin at the start of the regular season.
"We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Jorge Polanco for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," the Twins said in a statement. "We fully support Major League Baseball's policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter."
June 27, 2019: This won't just be Polanco's first All-Star start, it'll be his first All-Star Game, period. The Twins shortstop has been a cornerstone for the first-place Twins this season, ranking among the AL batting leaders at .321 and already close to setting a new career high in homers with 11. Polanco is set to become the first Twins player to start an All-Star Game since franchise icon Joe Mauer in 2013.
The Twins faithful really showed up big for their shortstop. Polanco got 93% of the vote from his hometown Minnesota market, as high a share as any All-Star candidate got from a single voting bloc.
Nickname: CHULO. Polanco's uncle started calling the shortstop “Chulo,” meaning “pretty boy,” when he was very young. All of Polanco's family members and neighbors in the Dominican Republic know him by that name.
Polanco tailed off in the second half of the 2019 campaign, however, and it was only after the season that we learned the extent of the ankle injury the All-Star shortstop had been playing through. He underwent surgery in November, but was ready for spring training in 2020.
Now, after a disappointing campaign from Polanco, ankle surgery was needed once again. This time around, there were ominous quotes from President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey about needing “to assess whether or not there is something else going on there that we need to address.”
With that out of the way, let’s assess what Polanco did on the field, although it’s important to remember he was playing hurt the whole year.
Offense. There’s no other way to say this: Jorge Polanco’s offense took a massive hit in 2020.
In 2019, Polanco slashed .295/.356/.485. In 2020, those numbers dropped to .258/.304/.354 — hardly above league-average for a shortstop. While his walk rate and strikeout rates each declined slightly, the biggest issue was the power sapped from his bat, presumably due to the ankle injury. Polanco’s Isolated Power (ISO) dropped from a near-elite mark of .190 in 2019 to a paltry .096 in 2020, again well below league-average.
Additionally, his Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), which is a bit more of a comprehensive offensive metric, dipped from .352 to .289. Polanco started the year hitting second or third in the lineup every night but by the time the year was over, manager Rocco Baldelli was sliding him down between sixth and eighth in the order on a regular basis.
While Polanco’s approach at the plate, and especially from the left side, appeared to become more and more like a punch-less version of Ichiro Suzuki (that is, swinging the bat while his body was already practically running down the first base line). It’s fair to wonder how much of that was related to the right ankle injury that is again requiring surgery. Polanco has always had a habit of getting his hips and torso moving towards right field, but it seemed more pronounced than ever this year and clearly affected his offensive production.
A bounce-back is not only possible, but it’s likely. Polanco was a much better offensive contributor before his breakout 2019 season than he was in the shortened, injury-impacted 2020 campaign. He’ll only be in his age-27 season, so unless this ankle injury becomes a truly chronic issue, there’s plenty of hope in his offense returning to form.
Defense. Polanco has always been a bit of defensive enigma, and that continued in 2020. Some fielding metrics, including Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) have always pegged Polanco as below-average at shortstop. On the other hand, Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) has always had Polanco in the average to above-average category. Polanco has occasionally had lapses on routine plays, but that was less of an issue in 2020. His quirky, side-armed throwing motion has mostly been effective, and this side of his massive blunder late in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series loss to Houston, his defense was improved this (2020) season.
It’s difficult to isolate how much of the improvement was due to improved positioning within the Twins’ infield shifts, but Polanco was good enough to rank fifth in UZR among qualified shortstops. (Defensive wizard Francisco Lindor led the way, and Polanco finished ahead of baseball’s new hero, Fernando Tatis Jr., among others.) No matter how you slice it, Polanco improved defensively in 2020 than what he had shown previously at the Major League level.
Verdict. Jorge’s 2020 season was disappointing. But his defensive improvement and the revelation that his ankle was again a serious issue tempers the frustration with his performance just a bit. (Ben Beecken - Nov 5, 2020)
2021 Season: Polanco had a career year, batting .269 with 35 doubles, two triples, 33 home runs, 98 RBI, 45 walks, 11 stolen bases, 97 runs scored, a .503 slugging percentage and an .826 OPS in a team-leading 152 games. He led the Twins in most offensive categories while setting single-season career highs in slugging percentage, home runs and RBI. He ranked second among major league switch hitters in home runs and third in RBI, both the top single-season marks by a switch-hitter in Twins history (1961-present).
Polanco also became the fifth player in Twins history with 30-plus doubles, 30-plus home runs, 90-plus RBI and 10-plus stolen bases in a season, joining Brian Dozier (2016-17), Gary Gaetti (1986-87), Kirby Puckett (1986) and Tony Oliva (1964).
- July 2009: Polanco signed with the Twins organization, out of the Dominican, via scout Fred Guerrero. Jorge received a $750,000 bonus.
- July 6, 2018: Polanco signed a five-year, $25.7 million contract with the Twins, an average annual salary of $5.1 million.
|Birth City:||San Pedro de Macoris, D.R.|
|Draft:||2009 - Twins - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
Polanco is a switch-hitter. He is a better hitter batting lefty, though he has a sweet swing from both sides of the plate. That's because he understands the strike zone. That strong plate discipline allows Jorge to work a pitcher for a free pass, as well as hit for a high average.
Jorge gets a 55 grade for his hit tool—above-average. He has only a 40 for power.
Jorge knows his ability to master the little man's game is what will make him a big league regular.
But he has gotten stronger, now having the strength to drive the ball. His super-speedy hands whip the bat through the zone from both sides of the plate, driving the ball to all parts of the park.
In the spring of 2014, some folks were saying he could develop and hit 15 homers a year. Polanco has a contact approach, draws walks, handles the bat and can leg out extra-base hits.
Plate discipline is coming right along for Polanco. He has some of the best plate discipline in the Twins' organization.
Jorge has good swing mechanics. They allow consistent solid contact.
Reminding some of a young Tony Fernandez at the plate, Polanco uses the whole field and has already learned to turn on pitches on the inner half. He gets the most from his lightning-quick hands. He has learned to punish pitches on the inner half while maintaining solid contact and walk rates. (Mike Berardino - Baseball America - 1/13/2016)
April 5, 2019: Jorge hit for his first career cycle and knocking out a career-high five hits. It marked the 15th cycle in franchise history, including the 11th since the team moved to Minnesota in 1961. The Twins' last cycle also came in Interleague Play, when Michael Cuddyer accomplished the feat on May 22, 2009, against the Brewers.
Here's a recap: 1st inning–triple; 3rd inning–single; 5th inning–home run; 7th inning–double; and 9th inning–single.
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Jorge's career Major League stats were: .278 batting average, 49 home runs with 245 RBI in 1,819 at-bats.
Jorge is reliable with the glove. His range, soft hands, footwork, and arm are very impressive at shortstop.
"I always liked playing shortstop best—that's what I want to be," he said. "I'm working hard to stay at shortstop. But if I can play both positions, that's good, too."
Polanco's arm is a 50 on the scale. It works well at any position on the field. It is big league-average, and accurate.
His fielding also gets a 50 grade.
His infield actions are impressive at shortstop, second base and third base. He lacks the plus range that evaluators like to see from a shortstop, but he is reliable with good hands and an average, accurate arm. He projects as a potential everyday second baseman who could slide over to shortstop in a pinch.
Polanco had been a second baseman, and “we’re trying to expand his résumé a little bit, because we don’t know where he’ll fit when he gets to the big leagues,” Twins VP of Player Personnel Mike Radcliff said. “We’ve probably got to get him some third-base time, and he’s played some outfield. He could end up playing any or all of them.
"He's learned to handle all the 80 percenters,” Radcliff said, referring to plays made by 80 percent of all shortstops. “He’s not our best range guy, but he’s getting better, and he’s made himself much more sure-handed.”
Jorge has improved his footwork, particularly to get his feet headed in the right direction to improve the carry and accuracy on his throws.
In 2015, Polanco made 35 errors at shortstop, though he has soft hands, an average arm, and range that could improve to above-average as he learns to get better reads off the bat.
His play clock gets sped up, which leads to unforced errors by Jorge.
- In 2021 for the Twins, Polanco played 39 games and shortstop and 120 games at second base. Before 2021, Polanco was a shortstop almost exclusively for several years. (Baseball-Reference.com - Dec 2021)
Jorge is an average runner, or a tad better—a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He is not a big threat to steal a lot of bases. But he is quick once under way.
- Polanco has a lot of work to do with his baserunning acumen. In particular, he struggles to read pickoff moves.
- In general, he gets caught too often when he attempts to steal.
August 2013: Polanco was bothered by a groin problem for his final six weeks at Cedar Rapids. He had previously suffered the injury while rounding a base but tried to play through it.
Nov. 22, 2019: Polanco underwent arthroscopic debridement surgery on his right ankle to repair an ankle impingement, the Twins announced. Polanco is expected to resume baseball activities in around six weeks.
The procedure was performed by Dr. Richard Ferkel in Los Angeles. According to the Twins, the injury wasn't caused by any specific play or action, and it is characterized as a chronic issue that occurred due to repetitive stress.
Oct 1, 2020: President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey indicated that Polanco was at less than 100 percent for much of the year as he continued to play through a sore right ankle. This comes even after the shortstop underwent arthroscopic surgery in the area last offseason. Falvey isn't ruling out another procedure.
"That's something we need to reassess," Falvey said. "He did have last year's offseason surgery to address that bone spur, but I think we need to reassess whether or not there's something else going on there that we need to address again."
Oct. 8, 2020: Polanco underwent a successful surgery with Dr. Chris Coetzee in Minneapolis to remove a mild bone spur and small bone chip on the outside of his right ankle.
Oct 12, 2020: The shortstop also underwent a procedure last offseason to remove a bone spur from that ankle, but it didn't fully resolve the issue, as pain in the area again flared up in 2020. President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said at the end of the season that Polanco had been playing through ankle pain through the campaign, during which he finished second among Twins regulars with 55 games played.
March 16, 2021: Manager Rocco Baldelli said after the game that Polanco landed awkwardly on the baseball when he dove for Kevin Newman’s infield single in the top of the second inning. Baldelli walked onto the field to examine Polanco and left him in the game, but he pulled the shortstop after Polanco felt tightness in the area while running out a ground ball.
May 20, 2021: Polanco's sore right ankle hasn't gotten much better since he last played in the doubleheader in Anaheim, and the Twins hope to have a better sense for his next steps. The club is being particularly careful in its evaluation of Polanco because the discomfort is in the same area that has bothered the infielder since 2019, which required two surgeries in two years. The Twins will continue to treat him for now, with the possibility that they'll progress to injections in the area.
"When you look at it and the doctors are kind of deciding what we're really dealing with here, it seems like it's most likely related to the previous issues," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "What to do about that and how to treat it? It was a challenging thing to treat previously. A day or two off wasn't something that really helped him."