So what can we expect out of Polanco in 2013? Any discussion regarding Polanco typically begins with his glove, which remains stellar. Over the last three seasons, he has posted an average Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 12.6 runs above average per full season of play. Polanco passed the eye test as well, at least when it came to the Fans Scouting Report. He was rated ninth among third basemen in the FSR, behind a number of good rookie shortstops who were shifted to third base (Manny Machado, Adeiny Hechavarria) and other elite third basemen (Evan Longoria, Scott Rolen, Ryan Zimmerman).
With his continued aging, we would expect that to drop, but even if it falls down to eight or 10 runs above average, the Marlins would still be receiving the best defensive third baseman the club has likely ever had. Assuming eight runs above average per full year, it will not take much more to make Polanco close to a league-average player.
As far as his offense, there is much to be desired. Polanco is coming off of his worst offensive campaign since the start of his career, Over the last three years, he has hit a respectable but still very light .281/.330/.356, and his power will not be returning now that he has left Citizens Bank Ballpark and entered Marlins Park. However, last year his performance was brought down by his lowest BABIP of his career as well, and if he can drag that BABIP back up to something less than his career norm, the Marlins should at least see a repeat of his 2011 batting line. Indeed, Bill James projects a .279/,331/.368 line (.303 wOBA) that is very similar to that 2011 mark.
Assuming that projection sticks, the only thing left to consider Polanco’s playing time. He logged an average of 484 PA per season over the last three years, and I would be comfortable guessing about the same number for him in 2013. Giving him 480 PA for the year, the Marlins could expect a below-average hitter who makes up for it by being an excellent third baseman, much in the way Omar Infante did in 2011 and 2012. In that small amount of time, Polanco may be worth 1.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which would make him a stellar investment for the Fish.