While the Los Angeles Dodgers were expected to sign an outfielder in free agency, particularly after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the Cincinnati Reds, most would have projected that to be Bryce Harper, not A.J. Pollock, who has a checkered injury history.
Upon signing Pollock to a four-year contract, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts made it clear they envisioned him as the club’s everyday center fielder. And if Spring Training is any indication, Pollock batting leadoff is all but set.
“A.J., even before, just the at-bats, there’s a plan in place. Even the aggressive swings, it looks right having him at the top of the order,” Roberts said.
“He has hit leadoff for the most part the last few years in Arizona, so obviously we thought about him hitting at the top of the order. What that means, right now, having him at the top makes sense.
“But if we do change in some capacity I’m sure he’ll be open to it. But right now, I like him at the top but that doesn’t mean that can’t change either.”
Pollock has been slotted atop the Dodgers lineup in each of his five Cactus League starts this year. Although a premium is not placed on results, he’s a combined 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in the last two starts.
Pollock’s streak is being snapped Monday, as he’s batting fifth and replaced in the leadoff spot by Joc Pederson.
Pollock has been a leadoff hitter in 172 career starts, and hit second in 135 games. The 31-year-old has not started more than 69 games (cleanup) in any other spot in a lineup over his career.
Pollock sports a lifetime .804 on-base plus slugging percentage as a leadoff hitter. Though he does not necessarily profile as the prototypical batter at the top of a lineup card, the Dodgers haven’t had such a player since trading Dee Gordon.