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AJ Pollock is Good

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Last season AJ Pollock had his breakout season cut short. It’s time to gamble on a double breakout.

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Last year if you owned AJ Pollock you were enjoying a breakout season until he was pegged in the hand and broke a bone which took him out until September.  I personally was really enjoying his breakout, regardless of the fact that it was supported by a nice .344 babip, but also a noticeable change in his approach.  Pollock swung at more pitches, and made more contact.

Season

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

2013

28.80%

59.00%

42.70%

67.40%

90.50%

82.10%

46.20%

56.20%

2014

29.30%

59.50%

44.20%

65.40%

93.60%

84.20%

49.50%

68.30%

So Pollock saw more strikes, swung more, and made more contact.  This is a recipe for good fantasy production, and that's exactly what his owners got.  He's a fast guy, so balls in play will always work more to his advantage than the average hitter, and since he's not complete devoid of pop (278.4 ft per Homerun and Fly ball with the help of Chase Field), he produced a very nice almost half season line of .302/41R/7HR/24RBI/14 SB.  A full season of this type of hitting could have given him a 15HR, 30 SB profile, which easily works as a OF3 in all leagues, but at a much lower cost.

What makes this more surprising is that his line drive percentage went down to 14.2%, which is low, and also almost a 4% drop from 2013.  Since LD% is notoriously unpredictable, meaning his good luck babip was paired with some bad luck in his batted ball profile, its rare to get that many hits on balls in play.  But this leads back to Pollock being fast, he has a career 10% infield hit percentage, and that isn't going to change next season.

His Zone profiles don't tell me a whole lot but here are his career batting averages.  I'm not posting his slugging percentage chart since its just a stereotypical right handed hitters chart, slugging more as the ball gets more elevated in the zone, and he isn't enough of a slugger for it to matter.

Picture of Pollock BA's courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

So for next season, it doesn't seem likely that Pollock hits so few line drives and has such a high average. But what I believe he's more likely to increase his LD% than he is to make less contact, which will result in close to and equal rate of hits from last season.  While he may have less luck with groundballs, you generally don't need much luck with liners.  Subsequently, he'll continue to support a high average

Now I usually like to just stick to the player I'm writing about when doing analysis, but in Pollocks case, he seems to be sitting on a pretty sweet deal for 2015.  He'll have Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Mark Trumbo, and Yasmani Tomas behind him next season.  On top of that, he plays at Chase Field, which ranked average or better for every type of hit for righties last year, and he does a good job of spraying the ball around the field, taking full advantage of his home field.

Lastly is the best part.  Since Pollock hasn't even played a full season yet, he's a complete unknown in most ranking systems, and he is harder for Steamer, Oliver, ZiPs, etc to create projections for.  Getting hit on the hand and breaking a bone doesn't make you injury prone in my book, so I'm writing last season's DL trip off as bad luck and moving forward with Pollock as a fine potential back end player on any fantasy team with at least 10 teams next season.  Lastly, i'm not saying to build your team around Pollock, but i am saying that a team that has lets say Stanton and Bruce as your first two outfielders, would be more rounded by having a nice Pollock at the end.

If you aren't considering him, he'll just hit you in the face with a homer, you've been warned.