Finding Next Season’s A.J. Pollock

After writing about the biggest value gainers last week, I started pondering Charlie Blackmon and A.J. Pollock. Both are power/speed guys, both are on the way to their best season, and both were kind of obvious in hindsight. That last part is what interests me. If their better-than-expected performances this season were fairly easy to see coming, then why didn’t most fantasy owners notice?

I touted Blackmon in passing, but didn’t blow a trumpet about it because I wasn’t completely confident in him. I had an inkling about Pollock, yet he didn’t make any of my teams and I didn’t write about him. I think so many missed them because they slipped into a sort of value vortex. They aren’t young, they didn’t have much buzz coming up and we’d seen enough games from them to assume we knew what they were.

I’ll work from those three points: Age, lack of buzz and experience. So the quest becomes finding the next power/speed performer hinting at a breakout this season, who will remain undervalued next season.

Next year’s “Blackmon” isn’t on this list. At least not as it currently stands. Belief in a repeat season may have been low, but with an average rank of 27th in the late-March RotoGraphs update Blackmon didn’t come at a massive discount. These players would need to step up their games in the second half to get to that point. Next year’s “Pollock” could be on this list. Pollock’s average late-March rank was 44.33, so I’m focusing on players outside the top 40 on the latest RotoGraphs outfield rankings.

I started by taking a look at the outfielders ZiPS projects will finish with double-digit speed and power this season to roughly replicate Pollock’s skillset. After slicing and dicing to fit the age/buzz/history restrictions, a few names emerged.

Kevin Pillar (RotoGraphs midseason outfield ranking: 44) – ZiPS projects 12 HR/24 SB/.272 average for Pillar this season. Pillar’s less-than-impressive prospect pedigree and lefty-mashing ways mean he could have easily slipped into a platoon player. He’s proven to be more than that this season with nearly identical results against both sides. He’s shown the ability to hit for average and steal bases in the minors, the question is his power. His only multi-homer month was a four-homer June and it will be interesting to see if he can do it again this season. A little more power would be a big addition to his value.

Cameron Maybin (46) – Maybin is a little bit of a stretch on the buzz category since he’s received his fair share over the years. Going off of this ranking while he’s having one of his best seasons, I think we can safely say he’s no longer buzzy. I’m less inclined to be scared off by his career-high HR/FB rate because he’s always had strong fly ball + home run distances and scouts projected he would hit for power. Of course, Maybin’s potential is really about staying healthy. His extensive injury history could help him come at a discount even if he keeps up his current pace for a full season, which ZiPS projects as 11 HR/23 SB/.276 average.

Gerardo Parra (58) – Alex Chamberlain covers Parra in fantastic detail here. I come down somewhere around where he does. We’ve seen too much of Parra being Parra for Parra to suddenly become Parra with power. If Parra does reach his ZiPS projected line of 14 HR/11 SB/.302 average, I’m still not buying in next season.

Jimmy Paredes (59) – In the one month when Paredes’ BABIP dipped below .378, he put up a wRC+ of 35. Not good. Why am I still intrigued? He’s often carried a solid BABIP the past few seasons. He’s also hiding potential for steals, as he’s had at least 20 steals in each of his professional seasons. Add those to the fact his power has been fairly consistent, outside of a terrible July, and I think there’s potential for a leap here. ZiPS projects 15 HR/10 SB/.276 average. Even if he turns on the speed in the second half (and maintains his power), there’s little chance he gets enough elevation in the preseason to lift him beyond the preseason Pollock zone.

Chris Coghlan (83) – I squinted hard and tried to write the Coghlan redemption story. He has made improvements in hard contact and chasing pitches out of the zone. But even at his better-than-career rate, if he reaches his ZiPS projection of 13 HR/11 SB/.252 average, he’s not a fundamentally different fantasy player.

Adam McFadden contributes to RotoGraphs when he's not working as a sports editor at MSN. His writing has appeared online for FOX Sports and Sports Illustrated.

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7 years ago

To be fair to Fangraphs’ own Daniel Schwartz, he did tout Pollock as 2015’s Michael Brantley back in January:

I just wish I’d listened to him during my draft instead of grabbing Gregory Polanco!

Alex Chamberlain
7 years ago
Reply to  Adam McFadden

Sad part is he’s perfectly replicating his numbers from last year. We really all should’ve known.