The past two years
There wasn't one Diamondback player whose performance surprised me more than A.J. Pollock's did last year. At this time in 2013, I'll be the first to admit, I was convinced Pollock had no future with the franchise and was just a placeholder in the outfield until Adam Eaton returned from injury. This mindset from myself, was probably mostly the result of my ignorance as to what kind of player Pollock actually was. One year later, my view towards A.J. is galaxies away from what it was last March. I can't get enough of him - to me, he's an ideal ballplayer.
Last year Pollock took the spot of an injured Eaton and never looked back. At first glance he didn't have eye popping numbers, with a .269 average to go along with 8 HRs and 38 RBIs but Pollock was one of those players whose impact was felt beyond the box score. He beat out groundball outs at first, caught balls that weren't supposed to be caught in center and scored from first on doubles in the gap. Every time he went out there, you knew you were going to get his best effort. Now with Eaton gone and the centerfield position all his, his hard work has paid off.
One thing that probably hindered Pollock at the plate last year was how well he hit against right handed pitchers. His batting average drops 24 points against righties compared to lefties but that's almost to be expected from every young player. If A.J. can be more consistent at the plate this year - and I do expect him to be - then he'll become more of the prototypical leadoff hitter the Dbacks want from him.
Another thing for Pollock is just putting the ball in play. When he puts the ball in play, his BA is above average, at .314, which is likely a result of his speed out of the box. Especially at the top of the order, the Dbacks will need his .322 OBP to go up from last year, with guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo hitting behind him. Given Pollock came out of nowhere to surprise us all with his play, it raises the legitimate question: how will he follow it up? I have a lot of optimism, when I think about what we should expect out of A.J. in 2014.
First, with more playing time, I'd expect an increase in his power numbers. Pollock is gonna be slated as a leadoff hitter but shows a lot of flashes of power. So don't be surprised if he get's his HR count in the 15-20 range as a leadoff hitter this year. His batting average and on-base percentage will go up as he has developed into a more experienced big league hitter following his first full season in the bigs. I don't expect a huge jump in those stats, just enough to get the job done; perhaps around the .275 mark in average and .340 in the OBP department.
The biggest impact from Pollock this year though will come in the field. Pollock is a great defender and gives the D-backs a really good outfield combo when he plays there with Gerardo Parra. As he did last year, expect A.J. to be a game changer with his glove, especially given a full-time role in center. There will be a lot more pressure on him to produce with Eaton being traded over him. Something tells me though, that with the way Pollock plays, he'll find a way to make sure the organization doesn't regret their decision.