In landslide, the center fielder of the decade is A.J. Pollock. With 52% of the vote, he easily surpassed the only other viable contender, Chris Young, who had only 36% of the vote. It was fitting that it came down to those two, as between them, they played almost 60% of the games in center field this decade, and ultimately, it was given to the man who played over 200 more games in the position.
A.J. Pollock’s time with the Diamondbacks started just before the decade began, when he was drafted 17th overall by the team. Despite missing the entirety of the 2010 season after breaking his elbow during spring training, he moved through the minors quickly, making his big league debut in 2012. He played 31 games for them that season. He would join the team full time the next season, beginning his reign as the center fielder of the decade.
And it was quite the reign... when he was healthy, but staying off the DL (like it used to be called, kids ask your parents) was not one of the baseball-related talents that Pollock had. After putting up a repsectable rookie season in 2013 with 3.1 bWAR and an OPS+ of exactly 100, he missed the second half of 2014 after getting hit in the hand by a Johnny Cueto fastball. Up until that point, however, he had been hitting the cover off the ball, with a slash line of 302/.353/.498, an OPS+ of 134, and more WAR than he had put up in his entire rookie season.
Finally, in 2015, we got to see what a fully functional Pollock could do, and it was fantastic. He took the production from 2014 and maintained it over the course of 157 games. The strength of his season landed him his one and only All Star Game berth, and eventually netted him a few down ballot votes on the MVP ballot.
None of this even mentions what was his strongest attribute, and that was stellar defense. He only won a single Gold Glove award, for his 2015 season, but that was more due to playing time rather than merit. By the eye test, he was clearly a superior defender, but the metrics back it up as well. For starters, in seven years, he made only eight errors. Now, most agree, that errors only tell a fraction of the story, but in those seven years, he only had one season with a negative UZR, 2018 which was his final season in the desert. His Gold Glove season was an incredible 9.7. I feel like sometimes we took for granted just how well he patrolled one of the biggest CF’s in baseball.
Unfortunately, 2015 was the only full season we ever got from him. 2016 ended before it even began, when he rebroke his elbow from the 2010 injury and only managed 12 games the entire year after that. That injury may have also lead to why he chose to leave the team, given some reports at the time indicated that it could have happened due to the team mishandling his original broken elbow. Different injuries also held him back in 17 and 18, as he only managed 112 and 113 games in each of those seasons.
While injuries may have marred his time with the Diamondbacks, and certain, Dodger-blue hued incidents since then might color some fans’ perception of him, there is no doubt, based on pure performance, that A.J. Pollock is fully deserving of the title of Center Fielder of the Decade. Congratulations to you sir. I hope the Dodgers only make the playoffs as the second Wild Card, only to lose after a blown call during the WC Game in San Diego.