Is A.J. Pollock The Most Underrated Player in Baseball

PITTSBURGH – Over the past 162 cumulative games played per individual player, only two players have the following minimum combined stat line: .290 BA, 90 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI and 25 SB.

Moreover, of these two players only one is currently ranked in the Top-10 in defensive runs saved in 2015.

That player is Arizona Diamondbacks’ centerfielder A.J. Pollock*.

Entering his age-27 season, Pollock has enjoyed a breakout season that no one in particular is really talking about.

Through 91 games this season, Pollock already has career-highs in home runs (11), stolen bases (20) and RBI (42). He’s slashing .302/.355/.463, including .321/.368/.519 versus lefties and .297/.351/.447 versus righties. Plus, his walk rate and slugging percentage is actually higher on the road, dispelling the myth of only being able to hit in the hitter’s park that is Chase Field in Arizona.

While these numbers reflect Pollock’s talent level, they may not seem ‘that’ impressive simply due to the fact he spent much of 2014 on the shelf after a wrist injury (playing in just 75 games), and therefore had all of his numbers greatly suppressed.

These numbers did, however, show the potential that was there and that is currently on display everyday in Arizona.

When looking at Pollock, he is a complete player who does three things well: He uses his speed to great effect, he hits the ball to all fields and he hits the ball hard.

Case in point, take a look at this spray chart which has an accumulation of all of his doubles and home runs on the year. We can see just how much he spreads the ball around when hitting it hard.

A.J. Pollock Spray Chart #1
(courtesy of Baseball Savant)

Pollock’s hard hit rate of 32.4% is above the league average of 28.6% and also ahead of such notorious power hitters as Hanley Ramirez, Nelson Cruz and Evan Gattis.

More specifically, his hard hit rate on fly balls to the opposite field is 45.7%, almost six percentage points above the league average of 39.8%.

This allows him to deposit home run balls into the Chase Field pool that rests in right-center field.

In terms of ground balls, Pollock has a 23.1% hard hit rate on ground balls, currently 17th best in the league and above the league average of 17.1%. He is hitting .301 on ground balls in play, well above the .234 league average on ground balls in play.

Having a hard hit rate like that allows for hits like the one below: an opposite field ground ball with an exit velocity of 103 mph that zooms by a drawn-in Mets infield defense, ultimately resulting in a run-scoring double.

Pollock is also a master on the basepaths. He currently ranks sixth in MLB with 20 steals, having been caught just six times. Take away Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon (a pair of one-category players in terms of offense) and Pollock would be seven steals away from the top spot.

Perhaps the reason why Pollock does not get much publicity is that he’s not a flashy new prospect. Perhaps it’s because he plays for a team that has been one of the worst in baseball over the past few years. Who knows.

Even his own team wasn’t giving him the full respect he deserved, as Pollock was in a soft outfield platoon for the duration of the season, getting every fifth or sixth day off until fellow outfielder Ender Inciarte spent time on the DL.

For now, though, Pollock is certainly a high floor type of player whose ceiling is getting higher and higher each time he takes the field.

#DKBaseball

* The other player with a minimum combined stat line of .290 BA, 90 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI and 25 SB is Pirates outfielder Starling Marte.

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