However, despite a strong spring, Polanco is headed for the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis to begin the year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Jenn Menendez.
Last season, the 22-year-old hit .263/.354/.407 in 286 plate appearances at Double-A Altoona.
This spring, he hit .273/.305/.500 in 23 plate appearances. He made a strong impression on Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
"He’s got the ability to impact the game in a lot of different ways. He’s ahead of the curve (but) we’ve still got some work to do but we’re excited about what we believe he can become. Our goal is to put him in a position not to make the major league team but help us win games as we head toward the playoffs."
The Pirates were likely thinking of the future as well when they optioned Polanco. He has just nine plate appearances at the Triple-A level in his career, and the team could end up delaying his eventual free agency for another season if they wait long enough to call him up to the majors.
If Pittsburgh calls up Polanco this season, he could log enough service time to be eligible for Super-Two status after the 2016 season, which would make him eligible for free agency in 2019 rather than 2020. Huntington is certainly aware of this, and will likely plan accordingly -- unless Polanco becomes a necessity at the major league level.