The Dodgers presumed move for an outfielder came on Thursday as the club signed AJ Pollock to a five-year deal. The deal includes an option and a possible opt out after three years.
The Dodgers strengthened their roster while continuing the downfall of the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday as they agreed to sign AJ Pollock. The move has been met with some criticism which is expected since many had hoped the team was in the running for Bryce Harper. The addition of Pollock essentially closes the door on Harper while giving the team more balance and flexibility.
The balance part stems from the Dodgers inability to hit left-handed pitching in 2018 postseason, especially the World Series. As no Dodger fan would like to recall, the Dodgers’ lineup was shut down by Chris Sale and David Price as the Red Sox rode their top two starters to a World Series title. During the regular season, the Dodgers ranked second in slugging percentage against righties with a .458 slugging percentage while dropping to tenth against southpaws with a .409 slugging percentage.
For the entire 2018 postseason, the Dodgers ranked seventh out of ten teams against lefties with an abysmal .587 OPS and a measly .304 slugging percentage. The Dodgers are swapping out Yasiel Puig for AJ Pollock in a way, which creates more balance in the lineup. Over the past three seasons, Puig has hit just .217 against southpaws and posted a .666 OPS. The Dodgers are trading Puig’s inability to hit southpaws for Pollock who can hit righties slightly worse, but mash lefties.
Pollock, on the other hand, has posted a .484 slugging percentage and .787 OPS against lefties while hitting to a .468 slugging percentage and .801 OPS against right-handed pitching over the last three seasons. The one thing Yasiel Puig has over Pollock is durability, but the bulk of AJ’s injuries have come on diving catches or slides into home plate. Pollock will hopefully prove those were fluke injuries in LA and have a successful Dodger tenure.
AJ Pollock also hits some of the best pitchers in baseball, and he hits them hard. Against two NL West foes Madison Bumgarner and Kyle Freeland, he has a .517 and .471 slugging percentage. He has also owned some elite right-handed pitchers like Stephen Strasburg who he has a 1.091 slugging percentage and .545 batting average against. Pollock is split proof and can be an every day player in center field for the Dodgers.
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The other thing that AJ Pollock gives the Dodgers besides lineup balance is more flexibility. With Corey Seager back and now Pollock in the fold, the Dodgers will have fewer platoons and more options with their lineup. Cody Bellinger had been slated to play center but now the Dodgers have a true centerfielder and can put Alex Verdugo and Cody Bellinger at corner outfield spots. This would give the Dodgers one of the best defensive outfields in baseball.
With Pollock in center field, the Dodgers can also play Bellinger at first base more often if they choose to since he is not needed in center. This will protect the Dodgers if Max Muncy proves to be a one year wonder since Bellinger can play his original position of first base every day if Muncy does see significant regression. Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez are also freed up from having to play center field and the Dodgers can roll out an outfield of Taylor-Pollock-Hernandez against left-handed pitching if they choose to.
The Dodgers “swapping out” of Puig for Pollock may seem questionable on the surface, but from a balance standpoint it was a move they feel gives them a better chance to hit lefties better. Outside of injuries, it’s hard to find a reason not to like the Dodgers’ signing of a player that was the frontrunner for National League MVP last season through the first two months.