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Arizona Diamondbacks 2016 Preview: Center-Field

Please excuse any typos. Typing this with fingers crossed, as all Arizona fans are hoping A.J. Pollock's pre-season health is not an omen for the season...

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A.J. Pollock is currently on the shelf with an elbow injury. How concerned are you?

Preston: I'm not concerned. These things happen in the spring. Heck, Zack Greinke's probably going to be getting his annual shot in his elbow pretty soon. Players don't do a lot, then do too much, and the body takes some time to adjust. But another reason why it doesn't concern me is that if Brito is beating out Tomas for the LF job, the team can move him to CF and put Pollock in LF to ease the elbow a bit.

Makakilo: AJ Pollock is one of the core players that will take the team to the post-season. I am concerned because no Diamondback player can replace his combination of great offense and gold-glove defense in center. Mixed with my concern is that the injury appears minor providing good reason to be confident he will soon recover to full capability.

Jim: Never a GOOD sign when a player more or less starts spring training off injured, but the plus side is, better to get it out of the way early. He still has time to get healthy, and as Chip noted, they can pile on the ABs in minor-league games so he'll still be ready in time for Opening Day. The rumblings out of the team appear to indicate this is minor, but I doubt there is any position player bar Goldie who is more fundamental to the team's success this year, so the sooner A.J. is playing three or four games in a row, with no apparent ill-effects, the happier I'm sure we will all be.

Nate: Not at all. Seems just like a precautionary thing, I'm sure he'll be 100% by Opening Day.

If he's healthy, should we expect A.J. to repeat his All-Star performance from last year?

Preston: Over the past two years (almost 1000 plate appearances) he has an OPS+ of 132 and has been worth 11.3 bWAR. I'm almost certain he can put up similar numbers again. Will he get in the game? I think not. He might have struggled to make it last year had Stanton not been injured, and with there being a chance that the Braves and Phillies have their center fielders as their best players and possible lone representatives, I think his chances aren't great.

Makakilo: The projections shown in table predict that AJ Pollock's offense will regress from 2015. Baseball Reference listed Shane Victorino as similar up through age 27 season. If Pollock's age 28 season is similar to Victorino, Pollock in 2016 will be gold-glove and all-star quality with no regression. Pollock's best years just started! Instead of regression, I boldly predict his offense will be as good as or better than 2015.

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Jim: No reason why not, I think. Injury meant he flew under the radar in 2014, but his rate stats were almost up to last season (OPS+ 132 vs 134), and to me, that's the kind of mark I'd be expecting for 2016 as well. But as with Nick Ahmed, the good thing about a defensive star is that the glove is always much less susceptible to slumps. Pollock could conceivably lose a little bit of offensive production, or speed, and he would still be one of the top center fielders in the game, simply because of his fielding.

Nate: I don't see why he wouldn't. He's shown two years in a row what kind of player he is, and he's just 28. We should get a couple more all-star years out of him.

Who do you see as his main competitors for the NL All-Star spots?

Preston: As far as the vote is concerned (when he was criminally undervoted, even by Diamondbacks fans, last year) he'll struggle to beat out Harper, Stanton, and McCutchen, as well is big names like Puig and Cespedes. Unless the D-backs fans find a way to stuff the ballot box for him like they did for Goldy two years ago, he won't be voted in. As far as selected, if healthy, look for all of the above to make it, and with Ender Inciarte and Odubel Herrera arguably the best players for their teams, it's going to be hard for him to get in as a backup, since the D-backs will probably have multiple representatives already.

Makakilo: Mike Trout is the main competitor for best centerfielder. Mike Trout and AJ Pollock are in a class by themselves. Trout edges out Pollock because his better hitting (silver slugger) counts for more than Pollock's better fielding (gold glover). Also, I noticed that Trout had an edge in hard-hit balls (40.8% vs 33.8%).

Jim: If Trout is voted into the National League All-Star squad, I'm calling shenanigans... You can probably ink the incredibly exciting Bryce Harper in to a spot though, because who but old white men would bother to watch the All-Star Game otherwise? Stanton may well make it, simply because I doubt anyone can name another Miami Marlin. Not sure about McCutchen though, I suspect he may have peaked. But sadly, there's still probably not much chance of Pollock getting voted in, and he'll have to rely on the other selections once again.

Makakilo: Jim is right....rookie mistake by me. The question was National League All-Star, not best center fielder. That's a horse of a different color.

McCutchen and Cespedes are 29 and 30 years old - so the possibility of decline has arrived. Harper and Puig are not the kind of players I cheer for.

Giancarlo Stanton is 26 years old, and 2015 was a breakout year for him. Stanton is a power hitter (.606 SLG, .341 ISO) with a good on-base percentage (.346). My concern is can he avoid injury so he can play in enough games to showcase his talent. Highlighting that concern, he has missed a few spring training games due to a sore knee. The Marlins must see a franchise player because they signed him through 2028!! That contract is longer than any other baseball player.

Players With Longest Contracts


basic contract through

contract with options through

Giancarlo Stanton




Miguel Cabrera

first base



Joey Votto

first base



Robinson Cano

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Jason Heyward




Nate: Pollock still isn't a big enough name, so I doubt he gets voted in. I see Harper, Cespedes, and Stanton all edging him out, and I wouldn't be shocked if McCutchen gets more votes than him just because of his reputation, even if Pollock outplays him.

What, if any, weaknesses can you find in Pollock's game?

Preston: Weaknesses? Let's go with "areas of less strength." His throwing arm, even when his elbow is healthy, might well be the weakest of the outfield arms (if Brito beats out Tomas, and it's close between Pollock and Tomas.) People can run on him a bit. But what he lacks in strength he makes up for in accuracy. I don't recall him giving players extra bases on bad throws, although he did commit three throwing errors last year. Must have missed those games.

Makakilo: In a previous round-table, I did not suggest any change to improve. I asked if he had a program to reduce the probability of injury.

Jim: Could perhaps do with a few more walks? His career BB rate is 7.4%, below MLB average of 7.8%, though Pollock did get up there in 2015. He also led the team in double-plays last year, with 19, which is kinda weird considering his speed. That's the most GIDPs by any NL hitter with 35+ stolen-bases, since Vlad Guerrero had 24 GIDP and 37 SB in 2001. Was that a situational thing? Or just sheer bad-luck?

Where do you want to see him hit in the order?

Preston: Leadoff, second, or fourth, if the organization continues to insist on batting Goldy third. Personally, I'd rather see him leading off and Goldy second, but I don't see that happening.

Makakilo: The leadoff spot is not the best spot for Pollock because he is a power hitter. I would bat Pollock in the spot after Paul Goldschmidt.

Jim: Second for me. I tend to agree that his power makes him a poor choice to lead off, but I like the idea of his speed at the top of the order. Second would be good, especially if we end up batting the pitcher eighth, as that should also mean he bats more often with runners on base, which will give him RBI opportunities.

Nate: Oh, I don't know, first? Second? I don't care too much about batting order, doesn't make too big of an impact on the game.