It took most of the prospect world by surprise when the Minnestoa Twins promoted 20-year-old middle infielder Jorge Polanco all the way from High-A Fort Myers to the big leagues on Friday. Upon further review, however, the move makes sense and happens more often then we realize.
Let's start with the obvious - Jorge Polanco is not ready for the major leagues. He's young, he has potential, and he can do some things at a major league level right now, but he is not currently a major league caliber player. That's not a knock on him. Very few, if any, Florida State League players are currently major league ready. If they were, they would be much closer to the majors.
You can read a full scouting report on him that I wrote for Baseball Prospectus (free), that goes into more detail about Polanco's current and future abilities, but essentially, he's a solid defender who can play shortstop but is better off at second base, and he has good contact skills and a decent eye at the plate, but little power. None of those, however, are the reason why he was called-up.
With an injury to Danny Santana and a 13-man bullpen already giving Ron Gardenhire a short bench to work with, the Twins had one simple need - a healthy middle infielder. Talent level and major league readiness were not prerequisites. What was a preference, however, was a place already on their 40-man roster to avoid having to designate a player for assignment in order to avoid being shorthanded for just a few days.
The result was a call to Polanco and hurried trip from Fort Myers to Los Angeles. Having already been placed on the 40-man roster, Polanco fit all the necessary requirements - he's healthy and can play defense up the middle, and can do it relatively well. The fact that his bat is not completely developed and that he'll offer almost no offensive value in the majors right now is not important. This is a temporary fix and Polanco had the necessary attributes.
This is not a long-term stop for Polanco, as he's likely to be sent back down next week. Teams do often times, however, use a big league cameo like this as a transition into a promotion. It wouldn't be shocking to see Polanco head to Double-A New Britain upon his return to the minor leagues, not because he's necessarily ready, but because after a taste of major league lifestyle, the Florida State league can seem so far away. Additionally, from a baseball standpoint, there's always the chance that this situation will arise again and it will be good to get Polanco a more difficult test to better prepare him next time.