J.D. stood for Just Dingers last season, and now it is time for A.J. to stand for All Jacks.
Yes, it is early, but A.J. Pollock is well on his way to having a career year at the plate. Not only that, he has put himself at the front of the National League Most Valuable Player race.
The Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder took home NL Player of the Month honors for the first time in his career on Wednesday. In April, Pollock hit .291 with nine home runs, 24 RBIs, six stolen bases in 27 games.
Pollock began May the same way he ended the month of April — by hitting a home run — as part of the Diamondbacks 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit three home runs on Monday, leading his team to an 8-5 win over Los Angeles.
Despite sitting in the middle of the pack of the NL in batting average (.237), the D-Backs have slugged their way to 136 runs (4.7 runs per game), tied with the Dodgers for the third-most in the senior circuit. The second best staff ERA (2.93), fueled by the only bullpen in the majors with an ERA under 2.00 (1.85), is the main reason for the D-Backs’ franchise best 21-8 start. The ninth-worst bullpen ERA (4.47) and a 1-7 mark versus Arizona is the main reason why the Dodgers are 12-17, nine games back of the first place D-Backs in the division.
Pollock is the biggest reason why the D-Backs are second in the NL in slugging percentage (.439) and OPS (.743). Pollock only had three home runs sixteen days ago, but he has hit seven home runs in the last 15 days, including four home runs in his last six at-bats!
These days, nothing can stop A.J. Pollock from barreling the baseball up — not even Clayton Kershaw.Arizona @Dbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock took home NL Player of the Month honors in April, already boasting a strong MVP case.Click To Tweet
Heard of the phrase “hitting is contagious?” It is a real phenomenon that falls outside the realm of advanced metrics. As just the last two games have shown, Pollock has been the offensive catalyst. Pollock is tied for the NL lead with 10 home runs and his 1.045 OPS is ahead of one former MVP, Bryce Harper and another player underappreciated by the Baseball Writers Association of America, Nolan Arenado. That is elite company Pollock is keeping right now.
But when you consider the D-Backs have been without Steven Souza the entire season and Jake Lamb for all of four games, two of the team’s main run producers when healthy, it makes what Pollock is doing even more important. American League Player of the Month Didi Gregarious had a great month for the New York Yankees, but he also has Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge to shoulder the offensive load. Goldschmidt is swinging the bat well and Nick Ahmed is driving in runs. But unlike the D-Backs, the Yankees are not missing two middle of the order bats.
Only Johnny Cueto (1.9) and Max Scherzer (1.8) have a higher bWAR than Pollock (1.7), and both guys are playing on losing teams. Pollock is the most valuable player on a winning team, and he is putting up better overall numbers than the consensus best player in baseball, Mike Trout!
On top of his production with the bat, he is also an elite defender. Only five qualified center fielders in the NL have a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, and Pollock is one of them. In addition, Pollock has posted three defensive runs saved and 17 plays made out of zone (OOZ).
Health is the biggest concern with Pollock, who missed time the last two seasons. However, the last time he played nearly a full season, 157 games in 2015, Pollock was one of the best players in the NL. Only Michael A. Taylor and rookie Lewis Brinson of the Miami Marlins, both with five, have saved more runs in center than Pollock.
If he can stay healthy, A.J. Pollock could win an MVP award before Paul Goldschmidt. Just think about that for a second.