The season is young and things can change, but A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks has been one of the best rookies in baseball this month, hitting .308 with a .641 SLG through his first 12 games. Pollock has been on Arizona prospect lists for several years, but has often been lost in the shuffle when top outfield prospects are discussed. He's making some noise in '12, but can he continue to do so?
Pollock has a good pedigree: he was drafted in the first round in 2009, 17th overall, out of Notre Dame. He was seen as a solid all-around player who played above his average natural tools and wouldn't need long in the minors due to his advanced level of polish. Unfortunately, his timetable was pushed back by an elbow injury which cost him the entire 2010 season.
He came back with a successful '11 campaign in Double-A, hitting .307/.357/.444 with 41 doubles and 36 steals for Mobile, then followed up with a .318/.369/.411 line for Triple-A Reno in 2012, with 21 steals. He was called up to the major league roster three different times last year, enough to collect 81 at-bats. He hit .247/.315/.395, regarded as somewhat disappointing, granted it was a small, sporadic sample. As stated above, he's off to a hotter start this year.
Pollack is listed at 6-1, 205, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born December 5, 1987. His running speed, power, and throwing arm are all rated as average by most scouts. That shouldn't be considered an insult: none of his tools are bad, either, and his feel for the game helps them play up, particularly with his defense and baserunning. He's been a very effective stealer despite average speed, and his fielding instincts draw praise. He's capable of handling all three outfield positions, and the advanced defensive metrics like him, in the admittedly small sample sizes they have to work with.
With the trade of Justin Upton and injury to Adam Eaton, Pollock has an opening for playing time and is (so far) making the most of it, leading the National League in doubles for example. It is unlikely that he'll ever be a big home run hitter, but his combination of a decent batting average with respectable pop to the gaps, some speed, and the versatility to play all the outfield positions will help his teams win. He should have a long career in the borderland between being a second-division starter or a fourth outfielder.