Pollock's intangibles enhance his on-field value
Instincts, natural ability complement outfielder's understated style of play
The longer I watch Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, the more I appreciate his ability. Especially his hustle.
The right-handed-hitting Pollock, now 25, doesn't overwhelm with one outstanding tool. He isn't flashy. He's just a solid, dependable, hard-working baseball player. He's the guy a player wants on his team. He's the guy who will give 100 percent of what he has available every single game.
Because of an injury to starting center fielder Adam Eaton, Pollock is currently playing regularly for the D-backs. And he's doing very well. In all aspects of the game. That's what I like. He's a complete player. I find no glaring weaknesses in his game.
Pollock was a star at Region of Hebron Andover and Marlborough (RHAM) High School in Hebron, Conn. He played basketball, soccer and shortstop for the Sachems. He helped lead the team to the 2004 State Baseball Championships in the school's division. A scholar-athlete, Pollock's high school awards could cover this entire profile.
Pollock played third base in his freshman year at the University of Notre Dame. He was the fourth freshman ever to lead the club in batting average at .372. He had a tremendous year, and like in high school, he took home a string of honors. It was the beginning of a fabulous college baseball career.
Pollock ultimately converted to center field and won more accolades for his hitting ability and team leadership.
The D-backs selected Pollock with the 17th pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Pollock began his career playing for South Bend in the Class A Midwest League. It was the same city where he had great success as a collegiate star.
Pollock hit .271 in 277 plate appearances that covered 63 games. Included in his 69 hits were 12 doubles, three triples and three home runs. Showing an ability to hit for contact, Pollock struck out only 36 times.
Pollock fractured his elbow prior to the 2010 season and did not play baseball that year.
Following his recovery, Pollock moved quickly through the D-backs system, playing at an increased classification every year since returning from the injury.
In 2011, Pollock was assigned to Double-A Mobile in the Southern League. He hit .307 against advanced pitching in only his third season. He had 41 doubles, five triples and eight home runs in 608 plate appearances. Again, Pollock demonstrated an ability to put the bat on the ball, striking out only 86 times.
His ability to hit the gaps with a very uncomplicated and level swing continued to develop the following season at Triple-A Reno. Granted, the Pacific Coast League is considered a hitter's paradise, but contact and solid hitting mechanics are essential for success. He hit .318 and continued to make his presence known.
On April 18, 2012, at age 24, Pollock made his Major League debut for the D-backs. He played 31 games, seeing time at all three outfield positions. He hit .247 in 93 plate appearances, but he became acclimated to Major League playing fields and the highest quality pitching.
There are reasons why Pollock has sailed through the D-backs organization.
First and foremost, Pollock knows how to play baseball. He has outstanding instincts and natural ability.
In a game I recently scouted, a ball was hit to the right-center-field gap. Pollock raced over from dead center, cut the ball off and held the runner to a double. He used outstanding speed to get to the ball before the ball could get to the wall. Not all players show that type of hustle. Not all players follow the flight of the ball as well or as effectively.
In another game, I watched as Pollock turned a single into a double and soon thereafter, with pure hustle scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
When he hits an infield grounder, Pollock's speed and hustle require a quick and accurate throw to get him at first base. He has the ability to force errors.
Pollock's approach at the plate is simple, uncomplicated and very quiet. There are no extraneous movements. His swing does not have much loft, resulting in line drives as opposed to long home runs. But he can take the ball over the fence, as he did twice in one night in a game I scouted. He's strong and he has quick hands and wrists. He's a pure barrel-of-the-bat hitter.
Putting most of his weight on his back foot, Pollock gets proper balance and torque on a consistent swing that is appropriately measured and mechanically sound. His swing results in a lively bat. His speed results in hustle doubles. His history shows he will hit triples as well.
At 6-feet-1 and 195 pounds, Pollock is well proportioned and muscular enough to ultimately hit his share of hard contact home runs.
Scouting Pollock, I believe he is capable of playing regularly. He is an above-average hitter and has good running speed. His defense and arm strength are both average to a tick above. I believe he is best suited playing where he is for the D-backs, in center field.
Beyond the tool evaluation, however, I believe the intangible qualities of Pollock's game make him a very valuable teammate. I believe he will cherish his at-bats. He will not make foolish mistakes. He is intelligent with common sense. He will do what is required to win.
In an organization loaded with very talented prospects, MLB.com ranks Pollock the D-backs' eighth best prospect.
While it is unclear what will happen when the D-backs outfielders all return healthy, I believe one thing is certain: Pollock is the type of player who will provide natural skills and a track record of success to a club built around the type of qualities he offers.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.