Thursday, October 11, 2018

Scouting the Free Agent Market: AJ Pollock

The Giants almost certainly need to add at least one veteran OF to roster this offseason.  While you can make a case for bounceback seasons from each of the incumbent infielders, and thus Stay the Course, I don't think any reasonable analyst would recommend starting the season with Mac Williamson, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar and Austin Slater competing for 3 OF spots if the Giants wish to compete for a postseason berth in 2019.  Bryce Harper is obviously the dominant presence in the free agent market, and I am sure the Giants are going to do more than kick the tires on him, there are many reasons on both sides why Harper may not come to SF, not the least of which is there will be at least 10 other teams doing more than kicking tires on him.

The other clear upgrade on the market is AJ Pollock, long time Arizona D'Back.  Pollock is 31 yo.  He plays a league average CF.  He bats RH and hits for both power and speed.  Pollock had a big breakout season in 2015 in which he hit 20 HR's and stole 39 bases and ran up a fWAR of 6.8.  Since then he has been beset by a string of injuries:  A fractured elbow, a groin strain, and last year an avulsion fracture in his wrist or hand while trying to make a diving catch. The elbow fracture limited him to just 12 games in 2015.  He played 112 and 113 games in 2017 and 2018 respectively with fWAR's of 2.2 and 2.5. He was leading the NL in fWAR when he went down with the injury in mid-May of 2018.  Let's break it down further:

Hitting:  Pollock is part of the Launch Angle Revolution as his GB/FB has dropped from 1.74 in 2015 to 1.10 last year.  At the same time, his IsoP has climbed from .182 to .228.  This, in spite of the humidor in Chase Field which has suppressed overall HR's by about 1/3.  At the same time, Pollock sacrificed BA, OBP and BABIP falling from .302 to .257, .353 to .316 and .338 to .284 respectively.  Pollock is a pull hitter with the majority of his HR's coming to LF, which may play well in AT&T Park.

Defense:  Pollock was once a plus defensive CF.  That has slipped to about league average with age.  He hits well enough to play a corner if needed.

Baserunning:  Pollock's SB's have fallen dramatically from a high of 39 in 2015 to 13 last year which may project to about 20 with 600 PA's.  He's still as asset on the basepaths and would help the Giants move away from station-to-station baseball.

Intangibles:  I am not aware of any red flags or off-field issues with Pollock.  The injury history gives pause, but each injury seems like an isolated event which he should be fully recovered from.  Of course, there is always the issue of whether top FA hitters will come to SF because of the park.

Cost:  Pollock will not cost anything close to what Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will command.  First, he is 5 years older and is coming off 3 consecutive years of missed time due to injury.  On the other hand, he is the only OF on the market other than Harper and possibly Andrew McCutchen who is not a member of the Usual Suspects club. which means there will be at least 1 team willing to overpay.  I'll project a 5 yr/$75 M contract.

Summary:  The Giants should, and likely will, do more than just kick tires on AJ Pollock.  Although I am not thrilled with the idea of adding another longterm 8 digit contract to a player over 30 yo, the Giants might have to if they want to compete in 2019.


  1. Pollock has been the D-Backs version of Belt with random injuries and unrealized expectations. Maybe a change in scenery is what he needs but he could also turn out to be another Aaron Rowand.

    Whoever the Giants sign in free agency they better be damn careful this time. Bad luck plays a large part but is it just coincidence that pretty much every free agent acquisition they have made over the last few years has either been injured or underperormed? Hundley is the only free agent in recent memory who hasn’t disappointed.

    Maybe Evans is to blame and someone else wouldnt have signed Cueto, Melancon, Shark, Jackson, McGehee, Span, Maxwell, etc. or more likely it is just risky signing free agents.

    Knowing the inherent risk involved with signing free agents from a lot of personal experience, the Giants need to stay away from players like Pollock. He isnt going to be a difference maker at this point and has already shown a history of injury much like Belt that cant be ignored. The regression in speed and avg are big enough signs by themselves along with his age to know to stay away.

    1. McGehee was a trade not an FA signing, definitely one that didn't work out.
      It cost SF about $4MM for the experience and 2 pitchers: Kendry Flores (didn't do much, may be out of baseball) and Luis Castillo who has done pretty good with Cincinnati. He might well have been one of the Giants starters this year.
      That was a mistake but the Giants were without a 3Bman until Duffy was discovered (Giants proceeded to lose 8 straight with Duffy in the lineup!).

  2. "To compete in 2019" or to attract Machado.
    There was considerable talk and effort to reset the CBT in 2018 -- are there any pronouncements or whispers about 2019?
    For the Giants to "compete" does Buster have to return to some earlier version -- even 2017 with a little power would be very nice?

  3. On other monetary matters, MLBTR projects these 2019 arbitration awards:
    Sam Dyson – $5.4MM
    Joe Panik – $4.2MM
    Will Smith – $4.1MM
    Hunter Strickland – $2.5MM
    Gorkys Hernandez – $1.6MM
    Chase d’Arnaud – $800K
    Mostly nice raises especially for Gorkys. Panik is up ~20% but not near $5MM. Strickland: if the Giants go to the mat, would they use his temper and injudicious behavior against him?
    Can the Giants, to be competitive let any of their mostly reliable relievers go?
    They left out Tomlinson and Osich. Probably a kiss good bye to Kelby, but Osich? He might have been overpaid at the MLB minimum.

  4. maybe pollock to a 2 to 3-year contract

    1. Why on turf would Pollack agree to that? He's likely to get several big money 5 year offers from other teams.

  5. DrB,

    I want to compliment you on these profiles. You do a very nice job of profiling the whole player - his recent performance, his injuries, his advanced stats, his place in the free agent market. I feel like you combine all of that information to create a picture of sorts for these guys. I know how much time that takes, and I want you to know it's appreciated. Looking forward to more of these.

    I myself have been digging into the Statcast leaderboard this fall. Such a great resource, and fairly simple to use with a little practice. Pollock earns very high marks for his defense via the Outs Above Avg metric. He's in the 87th percentile among all OF's. Actually, of the metrics I used (expected offense, exit velocity, barrel %, outs>avg, and sprint speed), Pollock comes in ranked 15th out of 180. That surprised me. He's a really well-rounded player, but it's easy to be scared off by his age & injury history.

    The pressing question I have is, if the Giants signed Pollock, would he play CF or RF? Either way, having Pollock & Duggar in the same outfield would be a great situation.

    Cove Chatter

    1. I kinda like the idea of 2 CFers converging on Triples Alley.
      Two very plus OFers will take a lot of pressure off LF -- every where.

    2. I think Duggar and Pollock would make a very nice CF-RF combo for the Giants. Triples Alley would be COVERED!

  6. I love AJ Pollock. When healthy, he is difference maker on offense and more than adequate on defense. He is also 31 and unlikely to sign a deal shorter than four years. He will be expensive and on the last couple years of his deal (if a 4 year deal) he will not play up to his salary. That would match up with the last two years of Longoria's deal........not pretty. While he could give the Giants a couple years of well above replacement value years, he would become part of a very old and very expensive Giants "core."