Gregory Polanco makes an uneven major league debut

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Gregory Polanco is the Pirates’ top prospect. Last night he made his big league debut. It was OK — he got himself a hit and scored a run — but overall was fairly “meh.” He popped out to shortstop in his first at-bat and lined an 0-1 fastball into left-center field for his first major league hit in the third. He finished 1 for 5. He also had a dubious defensive play, allowing Anthony Rizzo’s long drive to right-center field deflect off the heel of his glove. It was ruled a double and a run scored, but it could’ve been called an error.

Polanco, a 22-year-old from the Dominican Republic, was hitting .347/.405/.540 with seven home runs, 49 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and 47 runs scored over his first 62 games for Triple-A Indianapolis at the time of his promotion. He came to most people’s attention last month when he turned down a seven-year contract offer that would have expedited his promotion, Jon Singleton-style.

But now he’s in the bigs. And, thankfully, one game in the bigs does not a career make. This guys is gonna be good.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.