It's no secret that the Pirates' top prospect Gregory Polanco is having an insanely good season at the Triple-A level, but the historic aspect of his great run may have slipped under some radars.
There have only been four players since 1970 to post better qualifying on-base plus slugging numbers in International League play at age 22 or younger, and their names are Nomar Garciaparra, Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez and Bobby Grich. Polanco's output has not been matched by such a youngster since Dunn's 2001 season, and you have to go all the way back to Grich's 1970 season to find a player age 22 or younger with a higher batting average and on-base percentage.
Some comparable 21- and 22-year-old players that have witnessed Polanco outpace their Triple-A OPS: Jim Thome, Don Mattingly, Rondell White and Jay Bruce.
All of these players had well above-average careers while Bruce and Dunn are still in the midst of completing their own. Every one of these players went on to play in multiple All-Star games. Hall-of-Fame cases have been made for Grich and Mattingly while Thome, and possibly Ramirez, will see their busts in Cooperstown
1996 | Nomar Garciaparra | Age: 22 | PA: 191 | AVG: .343 | OBP: .387 | SLG: .733 | OPS: 1.120
2001 | Adam Dunn | Age: 21 | PA: 254 | AVG: .329 | OBP: .441 | SLG: .676 | OPS: 1.117
1993 | Manny Ramirez | Age: 21 | PA: 177 | AVG: .317 | OBP: .424| SLG: .690 | OPS: 1.113
1970 | Bobby Grich | Age: 21 | PA: 295 | AVG: .383 | OBP: .503 | SLG: .570 | OPS: 1.074
1971 | Bobby Grich | Age: 22 | PA: 569 | AVG: .336 | OBP: .439 | SLG: .632 | OPS: 1.071
2014 | Gregory Polanco | Age: 22 | PA: 189 | AVG: .382 | OBP: .444 | SLG: .612 | OPS: 1.056
1993 | Rondell White | Age: 21 | PA: 165 | AVG: .380 | OBP: .436 | SLG: .600 | OPS: 1.036
1983 | Don Mattingly | Age: 22 | PA: 193 | AVG: .340 | OBP: .437 | SLG: .597 | OPS: 1.034
1993 | Jim Thome | Age: 21 | PA: 497 | AVG: .332 | OBP: .441 | SLG: .585 | OPS: 1.026
2008 | Jay Bruce | Age: 21 | PA: 201 | AVG: .364 | OBP: .393 | SLG: .630 | OPS: 1.023
The resulting expectations inevitably placed on Polanco's shoulders will certainly be sky-high with this list of players as comparables. Yet, as his on-field play attests, he is as close to a sure star as Pittsburgh has seen climb through it's Minor League system.
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