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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.

 

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