A.J. Pollock – Production is Not the Problem
The 30-year-old A.J. Pollock, who is entering his seventh season of professional baseball, has exceeded 140 games in a season only once. That was 2015, when Pollock batted .315 with 20 home runs and 39 stolen bases. He also scored 111 runs, racked up 76 RBI, and actually received MVP considerations (14th overall). Pollock’s encore in 2016 was worse than The Sandlot 2. Much like the sequel, most people don’t know that Pollock even existed that year. Pollock appeared in only 12 games after suffering an elbow injury in Spring Training. He again battled injuries in 2017, but he still managed 15 home runs and 20 steals in 112 games.
For the most part, Pollock’s on-field production has been great the last several years. His triple slash line from 2014-2017 is an impressive .295/.351/.486. His unique power/speed skill set sets him apart from many of his peers and has him as an early target in fantasy drafts this year. Current Fantrax ADP has Pollock being taken somewhere in the fifth or six round (59th overall). On average, he’s going right behind outfielders Starling Marte and Byron Buxton and right before Christian Yelich and Billy Hamilton.
Unsurprisingly, all of those hitters have 20-plus steal potential. As home run numbers continue to climb, steals are way down compared to just a few seasons ago. In 2011 and 2012, for example, nearly 50 players had 20 or more steals each season (2011 – 49; 2012 – 48). Compare that to the last two seasons where fewer than 30 players stole 20 or more bases.
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Pollock is more than just a stolen base specialist, though; his bat also packs a pretty good punch. Pollock is one of only five players to steal 20-plus bases last season and also post a slugging percentage over .470. The others include Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Tommy Pham, and Elvis Andrus. Other than Trout and Altuve, the other three all come with question marks. Can Pham repeat his unlikely age-29 breakout? Will pitchers adjust to Andrus’ newfound swing? Can Pollock stay healthy? Is health the only concern for Pollock, though? Let’s take a closer look at how his bat skills stack up against the rest of the league.
Pollock is a reasonably patient hitter when it comes to his attack plan at the dish. In 2017, his approach at the plate was among the most patient in the game. There were 216 hitters who accumulated 400 or more plate appearances last year, and Pollock’s 42% swing percentage ranks among the bottom-40 for fewest attempts at pitches seen.
You might think that swing tendency would translate into walks, but in Pollock’s case, it doesn’t really. His eight percent walk rate last year won’t kill him, but it did fall below the league average (9%) for the first time since 2014. Luckily for him, Pollock is an extremely good contact hitter (84%), and his elite level strikeout percentage (15%) makes up most of the lost ground from his walk percentage. As far as balls in play go, Pollock is a line-drive-first type of hitter who sprays the ball in the gaps to all fields. This type of swing makes Pollock a doubles machine. Using the last three years as a sample, Pollock has averaged 42 doubles per 162 games played. Only 10 players hit more than 42 doubles in 2017.
Combine Pollock’s solid .343 career on-base percentage with this doubles power and his premium real estate toward the top of the Arizona lineup, and you will get a ton of run production. As far as the other projections for Pollock go, we can expect a slight rebound in batting average, as his .291 BABIP last year was not only below league average (.300) but also well below his career .317 BABIP.
Pollock’s power profile seems to be legitimate and might even have room for growth if he increases his fly ball percentage or sells out to his pull side for more power. Pollock’s 87.8 MPH average exit velocity last season is more middle-of-the-pack than it is elite, but considering his pull percentage is just 43% and he spends more time hitting the ball on the ground (1.39 GB/FB) than in the air, that velocity off the bat is natural and could be improved with some slight swing tendency adjustments. A projection of about 18 home runs is safe, and he has 25-homer upside if he makes power more of a priority in 2018.
Pollock has a pretty easy path to a 20/20 season with a .285 batting average and 100 runs in 2018. That would make him a steal in the sixth round … if he can stay on the field, that is.
2018 Player Profiles