A.J. Pollock in 2015 was, well how can I put this… oh yeah, amazing. He was truly one of the best breakout hitters we have seen in years.
He was fairly unknown heading into last season, despite having hit seven home runs and steal 14 bases in just 287 at-bats in 2014. You can thank the low number of at-bats to an injury that held him out for over two months.
Not a lot of people bought into the small breakout, but wow did he prove them wrong. He was nearly a 20/40 players, just missing the 40 steal mark by one. Add in 111 runs, and a .315 batting average and he was truly a first round value last year.
In fact if you use the ESPN player rater tool, he ranked No. 1 for all players last season.
This year everybody is searching for the next A.J. Pollock, as you should be. Now I don’t think you can expect to see anybody make the jump like he did to a near 20/40 season, but you can expect some players to make a big jump this season and we touch on a few that can.
Breakout Hitters: This Year’s A.J. Pollock
Kevin Pillar, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Pillar in his first full season hit a cool 12 home runs and stole 25 bases. This was primarily from the bottom of the lineup.
Entering the 2016 season Pillar is a favorite to bat leadoff for the Blue Jays lineup. With Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki among other batting behind him you can at least expect Pillar’s run total to jump significantly.
With a full season of at-bats at the top of the lineup, you can expect see his steals increase and if he can get his slugging closer to what it was in the minors, above .400, then those home runs can get near 20, just like Pollock.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Once a top prospect, Polanco has seen his share of success and failures already in his young career.
He started out with a bang. In just 312 at-bats in 2014 he hit seven homeruns and stole 14 bases. He didn’t follow that success up very well, hitting just nine home runs the following season. His steals total was OK at 27, but a bit low compared to what everybody was expecting.
He is still young though and a perfect candidate for a breakout season like A.J. Pollock. His BABIP is bound to climb after two down seasons, although his line drive and hard hit ball rate needs to climb for that to happen, but both are possible now that he is entering some of his more prime years.
Steven Souza, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Last season was the first real shot in the majors Souza got and he put up very serviceable numbers in only 110 games thanks to a couple hand injuries.
The power and speed is already proven, as he hit 16 home runs and stole 12 bases in just over half a season.
The downside to Souza, and what could ultimately hold him back from being the next A.J. Pollock, is his strikeouts, 33%, which led to his abysmal batting average of .225. I think this does improve in his second full season of action and this will lead to his home runs and steals increasing too, you just won’t get near the batting average that you do from Pollock.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Colorado Rockies
OK maybe this one is a bit of a long shot, but I really do like Parra this season.
He is actually older than Pollock, so to expect a breakout season at this point is kind of a reach, but hear me out.
He has really never been a full time player only having more than 600 at-bats once in his career. Then just last year he was actually on a great pace while playing on a bad Brewers team hitting nine home runs, stealing nine bags and batting a fantastic .328 through 100 games.
Then he was traded to Baltimore and things kinda fell apart for him. He hit only five home runs and had five steals to go along with a .237 batting average the rest of the season. He was losing playing time as well and there went the breakout season for Parra.
This season he moves to Colorado, arguably the best hitting park in the majors and in a good offense with Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez. I don’t expect him to explode to 20/40 like Pollock, but a 20/20 season or even 20/25 season is not out of the question for him.
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