Sure, the Dodgers have a lot of outfielders, even after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. But A.J. Pollock would still fit right in.Los Angeles is now interested in Pollock -- the top free-agent position player aside from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- according to reports this weekend from
Sure, the Dodgers have a lot of outfielders, even after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. But A.J. Pollock would still fit right in.
Los Angeles is now interested in Pollock -- the top free-agent position player aside from Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- according to reports this weekend from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal. And that makes perfect sense.
Pollock wouldn't be quite as flashy a signing as Harper, but he won't be as expensive, either, and he'd provide value in different ways. He's easily the next-best thing if the Dodgers are looking to upgrade their outfield entering 2019.
Here are three reasons why Pollock and the Dodgers would be a good match.
He'd balance the lineup
Pollock isn't a better hitter than Harper, but he is a strong right-handed bat, and the Los Angeles lineup currently skews a little left-handed after sending Puig and Kemp to the Reds in December. Pollock could combine with Justin Turner and Chris Taylor to provide some counterbalance to the Dodgers' powerful lefty trio of the returning Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Player Page for Max Muncy.
Pollock has a career 113 wRC+ (meaning he's been 13 percent better than league average offensively), and he's coming off a 110 wRC+ in 2018. He had some encouraging underlying numbers, too. Pollock's 40.5 percent hard-hit rate was his highest under the four seasons of Statcast™ tracking ("hard-hit" being an exit velocity of at least 95 mph). And 10 percent of his batted balls qualified as barrels -- the most dangerous level of contact quality, based on exit velocity and launch angle, encompassing the batted balls most likely to be home runs or extra-base hits. That was also a personal best.
MLB average hard-hit rate was 35.4 percent, and league average barrel rate was 6.7 percent. The only current Dodgers regulars who had a hard-hit rate of at least 40 percent in 2018 are Muncy and Pederson. The only one with a barrel rate of at least 10 percent is Muncy.
There's also the matter of Pollock's speed, which gives him an extra dimension. Pollock's average sprint speed was 28.2 feet per second last season, more than a foot per second better than the 27 ft/sec MLB average and just behind the fastest current Dodgers -- Bellinger (28.9 ft/sec), Taylor (28.7 ft/sec) and Alvin Toles (28.6 ft/sec). That also plays into the outfield, because …
He's a defensive upgrade
Pollock has the speed and range to cover center field -- and the Dodgers might have the luxury of putting him in the corners, too, depending on how committed they are to Bellinger in center. The point is, adding Pollock would let the Dodgers run out a strong across-the-board defensive outfield that they often didn't have in 2018, without sacrificing offense.
Last year, Pollock was worth +6 Outs Above Average in the outfield -- that's Statcast™'s range-based metric for outfield defense, which grades outfielders based on the difficulty of balls they do or don't get to. That was as good as any Dodgers outfielder, and much better than a notable trio of their regulars.
Pollock vs. Dodgers outfielders, 2018
Ranked by Outs Above Average
Pollock: +6 OAA
Bellinger: +6 OAA
Enrique Hernandez: +6 OAA
Taylor: +2 OAA, 28.7
Puig: -5 OAA
Kemp: -6 OAA
Joc Pederson: -7 OAA
Puig and Kemp aren't Dodgers anymore. Pederson could be traded, too -- Rosenthal reported Sunday that Los Angeles has discussed a Pederson deal with multiple teams, including the White Sox. Such a move could be a precursor to pursuing Pollock. Dealing Puig, Kemp and Pederson in the same offseason wouldn't just reduce the logjam in the Dodgers' outfield -- it would also clear their three biggest defensive liabilities from a year ago.
Oh, and Harper? It's a little complicated, but he did just post one of the worst defensive seasons of any outfielder in baseball, worth -13 Outs Above Average in 2018.
Pollock locking down an everyday outfield spot could have ripple effects, too, because ...
He'd help the Dodgers' flexibility
One of the hallmarks of the Dodgers' teams of the last couple of seasons is their versatility. They have several players who can play multiple types of positions.
Bellinger can handle center field and first base, despite the vast difference between those two positions. Hernandez is a super-utility type of player. Taylor can play the outfield, second base or even shortstop. Muncy can play first, or second or third if needed. Even Austin Barnes can move from catcher to second base in a pinch.
Pollock isn't one of those across-the-field type players, but what he would do is give Los Angeles more freedom to move its other guys around. Having a few key players locked in at important spots -- Pollock in the outfield, Seager at shortstop, Turner at third -- would just enhance Dave Roberts' ability to use the rest of the roster creatively.
David Adler is a reporter and researcher for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.