Dickerson, Polanco have most MLB potential on Curve offense right now

There hasn’t been a lot to be optimistic about with the Curve the past 2 years when it comes to high-ceiling, high-impact position player prospects.

Eastern League batting champ Starling Marte in 2011 was obviously the major exception, and Andrew Lambo was the EL’s best slugger this year before getting promoted.

Aside from those two guys, it’s been tough to look at a Curve lineup on a given day and say with any degree of certainty about a position player, “That guy can be a big factor in the major leagues.”

Well, another one arrived last week in electric center fielder Gregory Polanco, who runs like a deer and, at 6-foot-4 and 204 pounds, has the size, makeup and everything else a 21-year-old stud prospect needs to develop into a quality major leaguer.

Polanco is fun to watch, so when you show up to Peoples Natural Gas Field, be sure to keep your eye on No. 25 at all times – offensively, defensively and especially on the basepaths.

“His athleticism is off the charts,” Curve manager Carlos Garcia said. “You can see it. He’s a guy that you see it in the field, and you know his potential is unbelievable.”

Polanco is the one Curve position player who looks like a can’t-miss guy, and another potential one has started to catch fire after a slow start in his first year at Double-A.

Alex Dickerson teamed with Polanco to carry the offense in Wednesday night’s 5-2 Curve win, an incredible seventh straight victory for a club that, frankly, looked lousy up until a week ago but lately has looked fantastic.

Dickerson ripped a two-run homer in the seventh inning that put the Curve on top to stay, and it scored – you guessed it – Polanco, who had just doubled to open the inning.

“He’s going to hit,” Garcia said of Dickerson. “He hit last year. He always hits.”

Dickerson didn’t hit much at the beginning of the season, just .185 in April, but the 23-year-old has made the adjustments the past two months to not only prove he can handle Double-A, but also re-establish himself as a bona fide major league prospect.

“The main thing is my swing to start the year just felt broken,” Dickerson said. “I was tensing up, and then the level itself kind of made it a little worse.”

Dickerson hit .264 in May and is at .292 this month. His homer Wednesday was his sixth – he will need to hit for much more power than that as he moves up the line – but the 2012 Florida State League Player of the Year has shown the Pirates he has the mental toughness to overcome the game’s inevitable adversity.

“It’s kind of a good thing because I got to see what rock bottom really looks like,” Dickerson, who hit .295 with 13 homers and 90 RBIs last year, said of his early struggles this season.

Polanco has had no issues so far adjusting to Double-A in his brief time with the Curve, hitting .389 (7-for-18) in five games. He hit a triple and double Wednesday and, after swiping 24 bases in 28 tries at Single-A Bradenton, he already has shown off his blazing speed with three for Altoona.

“He’s definitely an outstanding player,” Dickerson said of his new teammate. “He’s got good energy above all. He’s going to definitely compete and do well, but the biggest thing is he controls center field.”

The Curve have been extremely fortunate getting one standout center fielder after another in their 15 years, and Polanco joins a list that includes Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Duffy, Rajai Davis, Tike Redman and others.

Polanco’s size is the first thing you notice about him. His reputation for being lightning fast might make one think he’s a scrappy little guy, but he’s an imposing figure who has a chance to only get bigger as his body develops with age and experience.

With another 10-15 pounds of muscle, Polanco could turn himself into a 20-25 home run guy, with the hope of still maintaining his speed.

“We know we have a pure third-hole hitter and a pure center fielder,” Garcia said.

“He has the potential to build up. Hopefully he doesn’t get too bulked up, but the way he swings the bat, he has a chance to be a 20 home run guy.”

The Pirates probably will never be able to buy the hitters they’ll need to become an offensive powerhouse, so they’ll have to develop them internally. It’s looked bleak in that regard the past couple of years with the Curve – again, with the exception of Marte – so the Bucs desperately need to see things turn around.

That could be happening right before our eyes with addition of Polanco and emergence of Dickerson.