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Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #8, A.J. Pollock

As a rare five-tool player, A.J. Pollock is on his way to becoming the best player to ever roam center field for the Diamondbacks.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 13.00 (6/34/10)
  • Seasons: 2012 - present
  • Stats: 524 games, .286/.343/.464 = .806 OPS, 113 OPS+, 18.2 bWAR

Best season: 2015 - 157 games, .315/.367/.498 = .865 OPS, 118 OPS+, 7.4 bWAR

Allen Lorenz “A.J.” Pollock joined the Diamondbacks as part of their tremendous 2009 draft class. Drafted 17th overall out of Notre Dame, Arizona became especially enamored with Pollock after he worked out for the team at Chase Field. Already considered a very polished bat, Pollock’s swing and batted ball profile allowed the team to project more power for him than many scouts gave the speedy outfielder credit for. An injury to his elbow which required surgery derailed his 2010 minor league season, pushing back the rapid advancement expected to a more normal developmental pace. This injury would later come back to bite the Diamondbacks a second time.

As an injury fill-in to start the 2012 season in Arizona, Pollock’s bat was less than spectacular, though he showed some patience at the plate. What did stand out was his glove. Known more as a player who would hit enough to stick, and defense enough to stay in center field, it was a bit of an eye-opener for many just how quickly he took to playing center field in the majors. Once Chris Young returned to the Diamondbacks in 2012, Pollock was sent back to AAA, but he would come back again in September.

The 2012 offseason was a tumultuous one for the Diamondbacks. As part of that was a period during which the Diamondbacks were shopping their pair of speedy, up-and-coming outfielders, Adam Eaton and Pollock. In the end, the team elected to retain Pollock, despite Eaton having had the stronger September the previous season. Pollock did not disappoint, rewarding the Diamondbacks for their faith in him by putting together a season worth 3.5 bWAR, evenly distributed between offense and defense. Pollock’s offense was not just limited to his ability with the bat either. In 2013, fans began to see what would become a Pollock trademark, using his speed to pressure the opposing defenses, routinely turning singles into doubles and making pitchers nervous with his ability to steal bases.

In 2014, Pollock found his stride. Ground balls became liners, and Pollock too his aggressiveness on the basepaths to a whole new level. In a season that went south for Arizona in a hurry, Pollock was a shining beacon in the storm - until a fateful evening when Pollock was struck on the hand by a Johnny Cueto fastball. The incident fractured Pollock’s hand and cost him over eight weeks of play, essentially ending his season. By the time Pollock returned after the roster expansion, the season had long been over for the Diamondbacks. All Pollock could do was to finish strong, which he did.

Fully healed and having found a winning combination in 2014, Pollock put together a fantastic 2015, turning heads across the nation. Pollock quickly became a well-known player in analytic circles. By the time the Al—Star game rolled around, even more casual fans were aware of who Pollock was. This was due largely to Pollock showing up as a true five-tool player. Pollock had emerged as a .300 hitter with pop and the ability to swipe bags and take extra bases. He added to this the ability to make playing CF in the cavernous outfields of the NL West look easy. Though his arm rated as merely average, his accuracy and his quickness to the ball still held many runners that may have otherwise tried running on him. Pollock received a Gold Clove for his efforts. The 2015 season had everyone wondering if Pollock might not become the second part of a two-headed superstar tandem in Arizona with Paul Goldschmidt. There was plenty of reason for excitement.

Then the season of injuries struck the Diamondbacks. 2016 chewed up Diamondbacks in epic fashion. After losing Daniel Hudson, Patrick Corbin, and David Hernandez to injury, the Diamondbacks also lost A.J. Pollock - only two days before the start of the season, when his elbo broke. Fans would find out over the next few days that the original surgery to repair his elbow had been faulty, and that the issue of Pollock’s elbow breaking again had long been a matter more of when, and not if. Pollock did everything he could to rehab as quickly as possible, constantly pushing to rejoin the team ahead of schedule. He finally made his debut in mid-August, was was clearly still not in game shape. He was shut down for the season less than two weeks later when he started to experience soreness in his legs.

In 2017, Pollock picked up right where he left off in 2015, before injuries came knocking. Then, in mid-May, Pollock’s leg tightened up and he spent another six weeks on the DL. He returned in July and provided a sprk to the offense that carried in to August, helping the Diamondbacks solidify their playoff positioning.

2018 is a pivotal season for both Pollock and the Diamondbacks. Pollock is the team’s best, and arguably only, option as an everyday center fielder. He is also entering his final year of team control. The biggest thing that stands between Pollock and a massive payday in the free agent super-class of 2019 is his ability to stay healthy and on the field. If he is able to do that though, the Diamondbacks will be the beneficiaries of having one of the best center fielders in the game roaming Chase Field as they attempt to return to the playoffs.

Update: Despite his limited playing time over the previous two seasons, Pollock’s consistently above average play in all aspects of the game resulted in Pollock being named to MLB’s list of “Top-10 Right Now” for center field.