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A.J. Pollock to the Dodgers - Fantasy Impact

The merry-go-round that is the Dodgers' offseason continued on Thursday, as it was announced that A.J. Pollock is signing in Los Angeles on a four-year $55-million dollar contract. It always seemed likely the Dodgers could add another outfielder, but the thought was that it was more likely to be Bryce Harper who signed in Los Angeles. However, it makes a lot of sense that the Dodgers decided to add a true center fielder in the form of Pollock.

The question is, what are the fantasy effects of this trade, not just for Pollock himself but for the entire outfield situation in L.A. both this year and going forward? How does the arrival of Pollock affect other hitters in Los Angeles? Finally, what situation is now shaping up in Arizona?

Let's take a look at what we might expect from Pollock in Dodger blue and how the remaining dominoes fall into place.

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New Location, Same Old Pollock?

Pollock has not looked quite the same player the last couple of years that he was back in 2015. In 2015, Pollock attempted a steal once in every 14.6 plate appearances. Since his injury-hit season in 2016, he had not reached those levels again, attempting a steal once every 17.5 PA in 2017 and just once in every 30.6 PA last season. The question is whether in his new home they will let him get back to running in the same way he did in 2015.

The other part of Pollock's game that he needs to get back to being a fantasy stud is his on-base ability. The biggest hit to that has been in the form of his batting average, which has been drastically worse the last three years when compared to 2015. Part of the reason for that has been a significant drop off in BABIP from over .300 to the .290 region. Part of the reason for that BABIP drop has been a change in Pollock's batted-ball profile the last three years. In 2015, when he hit .315, Pollock had a GB% of 50.3% and a FB% of just 29%. We can write off 2016, as he had just 46 PA. Therefore, over the last two years, his GB% has been 44.6% and 42.2% respectively and his FB% was up over 32% in both years and as high as 38.4% in 2018. Fly balls end up at base hits far less often than ground balls, which explains why we have seen a sharp drop in BABIP.

However, there is one thing about his new home that may mean we see that batted-ball profile revert to his 2015 numbers. Dodgers stadium is a worse park when it comes to right-handed hitters hitting home runs. Therefore, with Pollock projected to leadoff in Los Angeles, I expect to see his focus this year more on getting on base ahead of a decent Dodgers lineup. However, that will likely have repercussions in his home run numbers, which will likely regress away from the 21 he had last season and closer to the 14 he hit in 2017.

 

Impact on Dodgers

Even if Pollock is the reduced version of himself that we have seen the last three years, he should still be a better leadoff hitter than Joc Pederson. Prior to this signing, Pederson was expected to open the year as the leadoff hitter. However, a hitter who has never hit over .250 in his career, even one who has a solid career walk rate is not the guy you want setting the table.

Therefore, having Pollock atop this lineup should have a slight impact on the RBI numbers of Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. However, the biggest impact is going to be on Pederson himself and Alex Verdugo. Both Verdugo and Pederson were slated to be in the lineup prior to this signing. Pederson has dropped down to seventh in the projected lineup and Verdugo has dropped to the bench. That will have a significant impact on both and makes them both less appealing fantasy options for 2019, if things remain unchanged.

Longer term, Verdugo should get an opportunity but he will need that to come at the expense of Pederson or on another team. Now would be a good time to buy low on Verdugo in dynasty formats, in the hope that Pederson is moved or Verdugo supplants him in the lineup later this season.

 

Effect on the Diamondbacks

The biggest impact of Pollock not staying in Arizona is obviously on the situation in center field. Right now projected lineups have either Jarrod Dyson or Ketel Marte playing center field. The fact that there is not a general consensus could make for a messy situation for fantasy owners. Neither is a strong enough hitter to have huge fantasy relevance but Dyson's speed makes him an interesting consideration if he is projected to receive the bulk of the playing time. That is especially prevalent given that there is a good chance whoever plays center field will also be the leadoff hitter, gaining extra PA and the chance to put up more stats.

The guys behind the leadoff spot, Eduardo Escobar, David Peralta, Steven Souza Jr. and Jake Lamb, do suffer a little for not having Pollock at the top of the lineup. Pollock is still a better player than either Marte or Dyson and his absence will likely mean less chances for RBI for that group. We are not talking anything significant but maybe a loss of 15-20 RBI opportunities between them.

 

Conclusion

This is a weird situation because in many ways there are both good and bad points to the Pollock news. His presence in Los Angeles improves the leadoff situation there, and the right-handed profile of that park should hopefully encourage him to focus more on putting the ball in play. However, there will likely be a drop in home runs and my projection is that he will end up closer to 10 home runs than 20 this season. However, if the tradeoff is that we get a batting average close to .300, an extra half-a-dozen steals and over 100 runs, that is not a bad thing given the number of power options in the league right now.

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