The Curious Case of A.J. Pollock

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It is an inherent want of talking heads to rank players against each other. Just like with the Top Players of the Decade, MLB Network is currently doing Top 10 Players right now, unveiling the top 10 athletes at any one position.

The caveat put forward before every broadcast is that this would be a ranking for the upcoming year. So I found it interesting that they have placed Cody Bellinger in the center field category.

Of course, we know that Bellinger slid over to center from his previous spot in right field in the beginning of September to take over the duties of A.J. Pollock. Bellinger stayed at this position through the NLDS. Eventually, Belli went on to win the Gold Glove for his play in right field.

Other than the big contracts the Dodgers front office took on when they first asumed the team to try to bridge the gap, the Dodgers have mostly stuck to low-risk, high-reward signings. They don’t seem to be looking to spend money at much overall.

Which makes the case of Pollock interesting. The Dodgers knew that Pollock has a history of being oft-injured. That did not stop them from signing him to a four-year, $55 million contract. Along with reliever Joe Kelly, he was the only big signing of the 2018-19 off-season. It was not so much the amount of money spent on the 30-year-old outfielder that was surprising, but rather the amount of years.

Pollock only appeared in 86 games last season, missing six weeks to heal from an infection in the elbow that he had previously had surgery on. He hit home runs in three straight games after his stint on the IL, but never quite got back to what the Dodgers were paying him to be. He played 62 games in center and 18 games in left field, which was almost all of September. During that time, he batted .266 with 15 home runs.

While only coming off his third season, in which he won NL MVP, there is little doubt that Bellinger could become a generational talent. A veteran losing his position to a younger player is hardly anything new.

So if Bellinger is to take over the position Pollock was signed to play, where does that leave him? A break down of the outfield could look a little like this, if the current roster construction stays the same—Bellinger in CF, a platoon in left field of Pollock against lefties and Joc Pederson against righties. Right field will be manned by Alex Verdugo, should he regain his health and form, with some help from Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez.

If Pollock never quite gets completely healthy again, this system could work. It gives him lots of rest and less chances to injure himself again. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said that Pollock has been working on his flexibility. Whether that means in the literal sense or moving around the yard positionally, I am not sure.

But, if Pollock stays healthy, will he be willing to be relegated to just a platoon role? Surely, he understands his past history of injuries, and his age among the youth of this team. But that would be a happy problem, should the Dodgers have to deal with a healthy and productive Pollock. That would be high reward of his contract. If not, as always, the Dodgers have the depth in the outfield to weather any potential storm again.


35 thoughts on “The Curious Case of A.J. Pollock

  1. First Verdugo if he is healthy should be playing centerfield and leading off. Belli won a GG for right field then leave him there.
    As for Pollack would he accept a platoon role????
    He is making almost 16 million and is a nothing ball player especially in the playoffs. Let him prove he deserves to be a full time player and then we have something to talk about. I just hope Verdugo is healthy as I feel he is a great spark plug for this team.

    1. I saw a lot of Pollock when he was with Arizona. He was better than good. He was 7 WAR good and a joy to watch. Unfortunately he is injury prone. Not likely to get it all back at 32, but, you never know. His projections are modest but it’s possible he can surpass them.

      I too hope Verdugo is healthy. T’would be a bummer to have 2 Pollock’s.

  2. That may be the case. He signed a very good contract. But the guy hit 15 homers in 82 games, and other than the meltdown in the playoffs, was a very productive member of the team. He was their best hitter in August, and was pretty good the last 2 months of the season. He hit over 300 against LHP. I happen to be in the minority. I like Pollock. He was much better after he came off of the IL. His prior surgery had a lot to do with his subpar performance out of spring training. Bellinger is far superior to Verdugo in CF. And at this point, Verdugo’s health is a huge question mark. With a little over a month to go before training opens, he has not been doing any baseball related activities. If healthy, this guy is a very good ballplayer. I think he has no problem doing whatever is asked of him. He is a good clubhouse guy, and from all reports a really good influence and team mate. Pederson has not been traded probably because of the uncertainty surrounding Verdugo, who, by all accounts, the Dodgers have not been very happy with.

    1. Rich, that was reported as early as late September when he did not get back to the team. They were unhappy with his rehab process, and were very unhappy about how long he waited to let them know he was hurting. He is basically a kid. He does not have a super work ethic at this point. And from the way he looked his last public appearance, he was a little lax on the diet. He looked to me like he was a little bloated.

  3. Bear is Pollack a friend,relative you always are in his corner we had a back&forth during the playoffs
    Sorry came aboard as the starting centerfielder and later in the season everyone but my Grandmother played centerfield but him. Will go down as one of the worst signings ever by the Dodgers. Mark my words will be the biggest disappointment in 2020

    1. If he can remain healthy, he will produce. 2 WAR and he earns his money. He’s done at least that 5 of 8 years. I like him. I wish him well. But I’ve learned at this age it is best to manage expectations.

    2. You really should not mouth off about people you do not know. I like Pollock as a player, always have, and if he was a total sham, I would call him out. But he hit a game winning homer in a game I went to against the Reds last year. Accounted for all the runs in that game. His range may have diminished some as far as playing CF, but he is more than serviceable out there. Is he worth the money he is getting? Well last year he was only paid 4 million. They got pretty good production over the 82 games he played. This year he gets 15 mil, so he is definitely going to have to crank it up a notch. If he gets 400 at bats you can expect an average in the .260 range and double digit homers. 60 or so ribbies. And sorry Larry, AJ would have to go a long way to match how horrible Andruw Jones was. Jones was the worst free agent ever signed to a contract by the Dodgers, with Jason Schmidt right behind. You better learn some Dodger history before you go spouting stuff like that.

      1. Never realized you were such a Dodger historian. Yes the Jason Schmidt signing was the worst. OK let’s see by June that I wasn’t “shooting my mouth off” concerning Pollock

      2. That’s reasonable. And I meant do not assume you think you know me. Because that is far from the case. If Pollock falls on his ass, I will be the first to admit I was wrong. But they are going to give the guy every chance to succeed. And Jones was a far worse signing than Schmidt. 35 million dollars for 75 games. 33 hits in 238 at bats. Pollock would have to really suck to be that bad. And yeah, I know a lot about the Dodgers history. I have seen most of it over the last 65 years. And what I did not see, I read about extensively over the years. Been on the field and in the Dugout when I sang the National Anthem there in 81. Had 2 Dodgers live on my street in the 60’s. Used to shag balls for them before they went to Vero. And became friends with Wes Parker in the late 70’s. They have been my team since I was five. At one time, I could pretty much tell you who wore what number when. I use my Media Guides to keep up on that stuff now.

  4. I’m with bear. I think Pollock has a good year with the caveat “if he’s healthy”. Until we know Verdugo is completely healthy Pollock is big insurance. Granted he had an epic failure in the playoffs but a pretty good regular season and he’s a great teammate. I’m rooting for him

  5. I’m really interested to see what AF does between now and opening day. Verdugo might not be ready to start the season, Pollock seems to be injured half the time and Joc will probably not be back in 2021. Will this prompt him to go after Bryant or someone else we haven’t thought of? At the beginning of the off season I was convinced that we would trade Joc and possibly move Pollock in a trade where we took back another bad contract. They’re both still here. Will that be the case at the end of the season?

    1. I think they both stay in LA for the duration. And don’t forget DJ Peters. The kid is knocking on the door.

      1. I have serious doubts that Peters will ever be able to cut down on his strike outs enough to be a viable major league starter. I very much hope I’m wrong because everything else about him (power, fielding, attitude) seems to be well above average. I know that when he got to AAA last year suddenly he wasn’t striking out nearly as much but then he started reverting to old habits. I really hope the kid makes it but I wouldn’t bet my house on it.

  6. Sorry Larry, but for the second time this week I’m with bear on this one. There is no way the FO signed Pollock to this contract, and are going to give him only one season to prove himself. I think pollock will be much more than a platoon player with joc, he’s going to get his fair share of starts against right handed pitchers also. Maybe he sits against tough righties.
    I’m glad we have pollock, I’m not as confident in Verdugo as you guys are, he had PART of ONE decent season, we don’t know what’s going on with his back, the last I heard, he’s still shut down, who knows if he’s even going to be ready for next season, and you guys are giving him a full time job in the outfield.

    1. That has got to be a record Keith. Twice in one week. I’ll take it. I am not as confident in Verdugo either. I trust Matt Beaty more then him. Hell, I trust Taylor more than Verdugo. If, and I know it is a big if, Pollock is healthy, and they get 110 plus games out of him, he will be a huge contributor. He is a veteran and a pro.

      1. The only misgiving I have about Verdugo is his health. He didn’t look so good in the last photo I saw of him. If he can’t play I guess it’s Beaty. If he can play I want him out there. Pollock and Pederson will likely split at bats in left.

      2. I don’t think they want to play Beaty in right under any circumstances. They view him as a corner infielder or left fielder. Joc has played well in right but I don’t think they want Pollock out there either, so if Verdugo can’t make it you may see Belli back in right with Kike or CT3 getting some time in center against southpaws and Joc in right against righties with Beaty in left. Pollock won’t get time in right but if his off season training helps he may get some time back in center and other starts in left. Everything revolves around Verdugo’s ability to get back physically and then how he performs when he plays.

  7. what exactly has been the diagnosis of the problems Verdugo is experiencing, do any of you guys actually have some solid info on his real condition?

      1. Nope, I have heard gossip and speculation but nothing definitive. However your tone is revealing, Badger.

      2. Well, I’m not privy to his medical reports but this is my best guess:

        He had a serious oblique injury. Compensatory pain is common with oblique tears.
        In active individuals with femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), the resultant reduction in functional range of motion leads to high impaction loads at terminal ranges. These increased forces result in compensatory effects on bony and soft tissue structures within the hip joint and hemipelvis. An algorithm is useful in evaluating athletes with pre-arthritic, mechanical hip pain and associated compensatory disorders.

        Verdugo Evidence Acquisition:

        Increased stresses across the bony hemipelvis result when athletes with FAI attempt to achieve supraphysiologic, terminal ranges of motion (ROM) through the hip joint required for athletic would seem to me Verdugo is here. This can manifest as pain within the pubic joint (osteitis pubis), sacroiliac joint, and lumbosacral spine. Subclinical posterior hip instability may result when attempts to increase hip flexion and internal rotation are not compensated for by increased motion through the hemipelvis. Prominence of the anterior inferior iliac spine (AIIS) at the level of the acetabular rim can result in impingement of the anterior hip joint capsule or iliocapsularis muscle origin against the femoral head-neck junction, resulting in a distinct form of mechanical hip impingement (AIIS subspine impingement). Iliopsoas impingement (IPI) has also been described as an etiology for anterior hip pain. IPI results in a typical 3-o’clock labral tear as well as an inflamed capsule in close proximity to the overlying iliopsoas tendon. Injury in athletic pubalgia occurs during high-energy twisting activities in which abnormal hip ROM and resultant pelvic motion lead to shearing across the pubic symphysis.

        Failure to recognize and address concomitant compensatory injury patterns associated with intra-articular hip pathology can result in significant disability and persistent symptoms in athletes with pre-arthritic, mechanical hip pain.

        Again, this is just a guess.

  8. Thanks Badger for the cut and paste from a medical journal, remember you can’t fool me, I’ve seen your act for years

    1. I wasn’t trying to “fool” anyone. I was just searching for a sense of humor. Obviously I failed with you. Some people just live with the stick firmly implanted.

      Am I correct in assuming you are OD? Since you resisted telling me who you are, I have assumed the worst.

  9. Let’s hope Pollock stays healthy bear, and makes us look like geniuses.
    I don’t mind agreeing with you bear, especially since me and Jeff May have been just a tiny bit off on the whole off season acquisition thing this year.😀
    Hey bear, can we at least pluck the feathers when we have to start eating that crow, come February 14?
    I think I’m going to BBQ my crow so I can put plenty of sauce on it to help choke it down, how about you Jeff?

    1. With regard to your crow question Keith, we still have almost another month and the game ain’t over until it’s over.
      That said, I plan to have the Shlemming attorneys contact Bear’s attorneys and try to negotiate the substitution of another type of fowl if we actually have to admit we were wrong. I was thinking about one of those Popeye’s fried chicken sandwiches that everyone raves about. Haven’t tried one yet but I think I’d prefer it to barbequed crow.

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