Polanco's under-the-radar rise

Pittsburgh's wunderkind went from anonymous to phenom in just two years

Updated: June 10, 2014, 2:35 PM ET
By Alex Speier | ESPN Insider

Finally, he's here.

Heads exploded in anticipation of the arrival of Gregory Polanco in the big leagues. The do-everything, 22-year-old prospect, armed with a seemingly limitless array of talents, has been more frequently discussed than most members of the Pittsburgh Pirates' big league roster this year while posting a .347/.405/.540 line with 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Yet the conversation about his potential and big league readiness, as well as the Pirates' deliberate approach to calling him up -- which didn't happen until a Neil Walker appendectomy forced their hand on Monday night -- obscured a fascinating part of Polanco's emergence as a top prospect. There was a time, not long ago, when he was a minor leaguer of no profile whatsoever.

Players who emerge as elite prospects usually take little time to announce themselves. After all, part of achieving top-prospect status is the ability to stay ahead of the development curve at every step and to assert game-changing ability at virtually every level.

But while Polanco has enjoyed a meteoric ascent in racing from low Class A to the big leagues since the start of the 2012 season, his track record prior to that resembles that of few top prospects in recent years.

[+] EnlargeGregory Polanco
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBy waiting to promote Gregory Polanco, the Pirates could save in arbitration down the road.

"It certainly is rare," noted Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark. "[But] there's a lot of things about Gregory that are unique."