The collective hearts of the Diamondbacks’ fanbase sank last night when Chip Hale announced that A.J. Pollock will need surgery after fracturing his right elbow.
This is about the worst news the Diamondbacks could have gotten. Pollock was eighth in the National League in fWAR last season; putting him just behind Paul Goldschmidt’s fourth-best mark to form one of the best hitting tandems in baseball. Without Pollock’s Gold Glove defense, blazing speed on the basepaths or 20-home run prowess, it’s going to be very difficult for the Diamondbacks to contend for a playoff spot.
While no official timetable has been announced for Pollock’s return, it’s hard to imagine him coming back anytime before the All-Star break at the absolute earliest– if he even plays at all this season. The absolute best-case scenario for Pollock and the Diamondbacks is that the team plays around .500 until the break, Pollock returns midseason and then the Diamondbacks begin to rally. But if Pollock has to miss any additional time, there’s going to be a Grand Canyon-sized hole present in center field.
So who is going to fill that hole? If there’s any silver lining to this, it seems likely that outfield prospect Socrates Brito will get a chance to play full time in the outfield. Brito has been terrific this spring, batting .303/.349/.409 with a home run and seven RBI in 21 games. The 23-year-old is the sixth-best prospect in the Diamondbacks’ system, according to Baseball America. He is not much of a home run-hitter, but he can hit to the gaps and make pitchers pay with his speed. He had 17 doubles and 15 triples in 129 Double-A games last season, while holding a .300/.339/.451 slash in the minors. In 33 big-league at-bats as a September call-up last season, he batted .303/.324/.455 with three doubles and a triple.
Pollock’s loss is unquestionably going to hurt the Diamondbacks. It’s just a matter of how much it will hurt.