The Polanco Effect is Undeniable as Twins Gear Up for Postseason Run
Shortstop has proven an unwieldy challenge for the Twins in recent memory. Between 2006 and 2017, the team used 11 different players at short on Opening Day. The left side of the middle infield was a revolving door for years.
Thankfully, that’s all changed with the precipitous rise of Jorge Polanco in 2019. The former second baseman has found a home as the Twins long term shortstop, and more importantly, the club’s brightest star.
Let’s take a look at Polanco’s long road to reach the AL’s elite, a few season highlights, and how he fuels the Twins playoff chances.
Success Earned the Hard Way
As everyone who follows the Twins knows, Polanco is anything but an overnight success.
The 26-year-old Dominican has seen playing time in six major league seasons, but the opportunities were limited early on; Polanco appeared in just nine combined games in 2014 and 2015.
His first fair shake came in 2016 when he hit .282 with four homers and 27 RBI in 69 games. As the starting shortstop in 2017, Polanco posted a .256 average with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs in 133 games as the Twins advanced to an AL Wild Card Game before losing to the Yankees.
Polanco was dealt a setback ahead of the 2018 season when he tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug Stanozolol during Spring Training. MLB imposed an 80-game suspension for the infraction, keeping Polanco from the line-up until July 2.
He finished out the season batting .288 with six homers and 42 RBIs following reinstatement.
The First Cycle of 2019
With the lengthy suspension behind him, Polanco pulled into this season with a clean slate.
The shortstop’s first announcement that 2019 would be a special year came in just the sixth game of the season. Polanco hit for the cycle, going 5-5 with an RBI during an interleague game at Philadelphia. The Twins ultimately dropped the April 5 contest to Phillies 10-4.
The occasion marked the 11th time a player has hit for the cycle since the Twins moved to Minneapolis in 1961 and the first since Michael Cuddyer on May 22, 2009.[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”https://minnesotasportsfan.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Jorge_Polanco_playing_shortstop_in_2017_cropped.jpg” _builder_version=”3.26.6″][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.26.6″]
Maiden Voyage to the Midsummer Classic
After receiving more than 550,000 votes, Polanco was named the AL’s starting shortstop for the 2019 MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 9.
In his debut appearance at the Midsummer Classic, Polanco became the first Twin starter since Joe Maurer in 2013. He’s also the first Minnesota shortstop to start an All-Star game since Roy Smalley did it in 1979.
The Twins star went 1-2 at the plate with an infield single in the bottom of the 5th inning that scored Gary Sanchez of the Yankees to put the AL up 2-0.
The AL defeated the NL 4-3, racking up the AL’s seventh consecutive win.
Driving a Playoff Push
The Twins are in fine shape with two months remaining on the MLB season. The club is 64-41 through July 29, good enough for the top spot in the AL Central. Polanco and company are likely playoff bound, and Oddschecker puts the Twins among the top World Series contenders.
All great news for a team that hasn’t won a World Series or AL Pennant since 1991, nearly two years before Polanco was born.
To be fair, it’s a little early to speculate about the Twins’ shot at a championship. It’s also premature to speak about Polanco as an MVP candidate.
Still, his name has been floated in conversations by baseball analysts and around social media. The numbers make a strong case–Polanco is currently in the AL top ten in WAR (4.8), batting average (.305), hits (128), doubles (29), triples (5), and total bases (215).
Regardless of future performance, Twins fans will fondly remember 2019 as the year Polanco posted possibly the greatest season for a shortstop in club history.