Playing in a small market for a largely unsuccessful team has its way of burying excellent performances and shielding players from the attention they deserve. Tim Raines could tell you that having played his best years for the Montreal Expos.
When you think about the best centerfielders in baseball, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen and Lorenzo Cain immediately come to mind, but A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks has very quietly been one of the best centerfielders in the game over the past two years. This tweet by August Fagerstrom illustrates just how good he’s been:
Here's something I just learned. WAR/600, since the start of last season, min. 400 PA: 1. Mike Trout, 7.1 2. A.J. Pollock, 6.9— August Fagerstrom (@AugustF_MLB) June 4, 2015
In 2014, Pollock was hit on the hand by a pitch and had to undergo surgery that limited him to playing only 75 games. In those games, he raked to the tune of a .372 wOBA, with plus defense, accumulating 3.3 fWAR. In 54 games in 2015 entering play on Sunday, Pollock has been even better – a .379 wOBA with still great defense.
Where has Pollock emerged from over these past two half-seasons in which he has been so good? More important, how is he not on the tip of everyone’s tongue as one of the elite players in baseball? The latter question is much easier to answer, as I’ve already touched on the reasons. A small market, lousy teams and his 2014 being cut short owing to injury have kept him more anonymous than he should be.
The former question, however, is more intriguing. In the one full season Pollock has spent in the MLB in 2013, he hit just .247/.315/.395. He posted good minor league numbers, but nothing that would suggest that he would be one of the most productive bats at a prime position.
What’s more puzzling is that there hasn’t been a major shift in Pollock’s batted ball numbers either in terms of the strength of his hits or the batted ball type. He has benefitted from high BABIPs of .344 and .361 in the last two years, respectively, but those aren’t astronomically high either.
Pollock has gone from performing as a nice complimentary player to a superstar, and there’s not really much in terms of an explanation other than he’s getting close to his athletic peak and improving. So let’s just enjoy and appreciate what he’s doing.
Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs. He writes about the Mets at Mets 360. Follow him on Twitter: