We know that pitcher injuries are looming every time the guy cocks his arm back and fires, so, then, when a pitcher – Cubs or otherwise – gets hurt, you kinda think to yourself, yeah, that sucks, but it happens. Positional players can also be hurt at any time, of course, but it somehow feels more flukey when they suffer a serious injury. Like it is somehow more cruel and unfair. Like if they’d just stepped a little differently on the base or not slid headfirst or pulled up short of the wall, then the injury simply wouldn’t have happened. Pitchers gotta pitch, but positional guys don’t necessarily have to get hurt.
That’s all prelude to a really significant injury in the National League, as Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow yesterday on a slide at home:
The Diamondbacks aren’t saying much for now, only that he needs surgery and then will be out for an undetermined time thereafter. Pollock fractured that elbow before, back in 2010, and had been dealing with discomfort in it this spring.
The implications for the NL West race, and thus the NL Wild Card race, are potentially enormous here. You may or may not have known, but A.J. Pollock was a stud for the D-Backs last year, playing excellent defense, hitting .315/.367/.498, and posting a 6.6 WAR. In the two years before that, he was also a very good player, totaling 6.9 WAR. Depending on your projection system of choice, Pollock was projected to be worth right around 4.0 WAR this year. Losing him really, really hurts the Diamondbacks.
Not only does the loss tangentially impact the Cubs (if the Diamondbacks are slightly less competitive, it could hurt them in the Wild Card race, which could open up the Wild Card more, should the Cubs need it), but it also impacts them much more immediately and directly: the Cubs play the Diamondbacks for four games next week, and they’ll now be without one of their best players.
The impact there is muted somewhat by the fact that the Diamondbacks are done playing all of the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals by the first week of June (the Cubs are the last of that three-some to finish up with the Diamondbacks), and there’s a good chance Pollock is out for all of that. The Diamondbacks don’t finish up with the NL East teams, however, until much later in the season, for what that’s worth.
(Side note: check out Pollock’s minor league progression and skill set in the minors (tremendous center field defense, huge contact ability, developing power) and think about who that kinda sounds like in the Cubs’ system. Then think about the fact that Pollock didn’t really break out until he was 25-27. Albert Almora isn’t even 22 yet. I’m not saying they are comparable players (I’m not a scout), but I am saying that it’s interesting to see how the progression can play out for a talented player who doesn’t break out until a little later – and still becomes a stud.)