Gregory Polanco will return. (USATSI)
Gregory Polanco will return (USATSI)

Gregory Polanco is heading back to the minors. The 22-year-old outfielder had a rocky rookie year, hitting .241/.308/.349 over 249 at-bats. While he could be back in September, it appears his status as a Fantasy asset will be significantly diminished for the rest of the season. Despite the struggles, it would be foolish for Fantasy owners to cast Polanco aside moving forward. Few prospects dominate the majors during their first shot only to grow and turn into superstars later in their career. There's still hope for Polanco.

The emergence of both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper has ruined rookies for Fantasy owners. Harper came up and immediately showed promise. While Trout would up obliterating the league en route to a rookie of the year win, his first taste of the majors wasn't all that friendly. Fantasy owners tend to forget that Trout struggled in his first 40 games.

That's a common theme among rookies. Very few are stars from the start. Using Baseball America's top prospect lists, I put together the stats of a couple of the top-30 ranked prospects from the last four seasons. I used the seasons where they received significant playing time. So, even though Xander Bogaerts played last season, it wasn't enough of a sample to use. Instead, I put his 2014 stats since this is his first extended stint in the majors.

Here's how those rookies performed:

Gregory Polanco 2014 64 0.241 0.308 0.349
Xander Bogaerts 2014 118 0.223 0.293 0.333
Jurickson Profar 2013 94 0.231 0.301 0.343
Travis d’Arnaud 2013 31 0.202 0.286 0.263
Mike Zunino 2013 52 0.214 0.290 0.329
Anthony Rendon 2013 98 0.265 0.329 0.396
Jesus Montero 2012 135 0.260 0.298 0.386
Manny Machado 2012 51 0.262 0.294 0.445
Bryce Harper 2012 139 0.270 0.340 0.477
Domonic Brown 2011 56 0.245 0.333 0.391
Mike Moustakas 2011 89 0.263 0.309 0.367
Brandon Belt 2011 63 0.225 0.306 0.412
Freddie Freeman 2011 157 0.282 0.346 0.448
Mike Trout 2011 40 0.220 0.281 0.390
Eric Hosmer 2011 128 0.293 0.334 0.465
Desmond Jennings 2011 63 0.259 0.356 0.449
Dustin Ackley 2011 90 0.273 0.348 0.417

The results shouldn't come as a shock. Most rookies struggle upon reaching the majors. There are some players who were outliers. Harper, Eric Hosmer and Freddie Freeman all had pretty good seasons right at the start. Manny Machado, Dustin Ackley and Desmond Jennings also flashed some potential, though weren't as good as the elite group. The rest, though, looked bad.

A look at how these guys performed moving forward causes more confusion for Fantasy owners. Harper got hurt and Hosmer dropped off during their sophomore years. Trout turned into a monster, and Rendon became a real good player. Guys like Mike Moustakas, Dustin Ackley and Mike Zunino are still trying to figure out how to hit in the majors. 

There's no guarantee Polanco will be a success based on his high prospect ranking. But, given what we've seen recently, rookies struggle. The numbers for next season tell us that Polanco could take the Jesus Montero path, or could emerge like Rendon or Trout. While the floor is exceptionally low, the ceiling is high.

The takeaway here is not to judge Polanco solely based on his rookie numbers. They don't really give us an idea of how he'll perform next season. So, if he heads into camp in 2015 with a starting job, make sure he's in the back of your mind at draft time. His poor performance should make him a late-round pick, and he could provide massive upside if things break the right way.