Can A.J. Pollock Be A Big Fish?
At the core of every strategic approach to constructing a winning fantasy baseball roster is the goal of acquiring the most statistical value possible. Fishing to acquire undervalued assets who are poised for a breakout campaign is an essential off-season exercise for all dynasty owners. One of the top targets this off-season, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, isn’t the biggest fish in the fantasy ocean, but he may be one of the most valuable this upcoming season.
Pollock is one of the most underrated players in fantasy baseball right now because he was barely on the field last season due to a freak injury and very few fantasy owners realized how well he was playing. The 26-year old was on the verge of a monster breakout, hitting .316/.366/.554 with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances, before he was drilled by a Johnny Cueto 92-mph fastball that fractured his right hand in late May. The injury required surgery and he ended up missing 79 games before returning in September.
The Notre Dame product hit only .273/.326/.386 with one home run and six stolen bases in September after missing three months of action, but still finished the 2014 season with solid numbers overall: .302/.353/.498 with seven home runs and 14 stolen bases in 287 plate appearances. Pollock’s 134 wRC+ ranked 35th out of 349 hitters who received 200 plate appearances last season. Heading into 2015, the big question remaining for fantasy owners is: what does a full season of Pollock look like? In short, the projection is very enticing.
Pollock is a virtual lock to either lead-off or bat second for Arizona this upcoming season, and with a healthy Paul Goldschmidt eating opposing pitchers for breakfast in the heart of the order, he should have no problem getting on base, scoring runs and stealing bases. What makes Pollock a potential difference maker for fantasy owners is that he is capable of providing a rare combination of just enough power and plenty of speed while providing a lift in batting average and on-base percentage. If Pollock can repeat the performance we saw before getting hurt a year ago, all he has to do is stay healthy and he will be one of the most valuable outfielders in fantasy baseball this season.
A quick analysis of his batted ball profile reveals that Pollock frequently pulled the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield, but showed an ability to spray line drives to all fields, where his gap power enabled him leg out 19 doubles and six triples in just under 300 plate appearances last season.
It is worth noting that all seven of his home runs came at home in Chase Field. According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, four of his seven taters barely cleared the fence and were classified as “just enough” to leave the yard. Pollock’s career-best 9.5 HR/FB rate last season may see some regression over a full season, but if he avoids another major injury, he should have no problem posting double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2014_3840&type=hitter
2015 Projection: 635 PA – .295/.345/.456 – 91 R / 53 RBI / 13 HR / 25 SB
In the age of prospect proliferation, where top prospect rankings, websites, blogs and Twitter expose us to “the next big thing” earlier than ever before or tout a prospect as “destined for fantasy greatness”, it’s easy to see how a guy like Pollock flies under the radar and becomes an undervalued asset in dynasty leagues because frankly, he isn’t an exciting player to own. He doesn’t have elite power or speed and there are plenty of other young outfielders that will have significantly more hype (or as some fantasy touts call it “upside”) inflating their cost on draft day or to acquire in a trade next spring.
Pollock is the perfect target to reel in this off-season in a dynasty format because he is unlikely to be selected among the top 50 outfielders on draft day and if he is owned in your dynasty league, you will not have to sell the farm to acquire his services. What he lacks in “upside” he more than makes up for in the confidence you can have in projecting his performance as an impact contributor in multiple categories in your outfield for 2015 and beyond.