2014 Dodgers In Review: OF Joc Pederson

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ HR WAR
MiLB (ABQ) 553 .303 .435 .582 164 33 n/a
MLB (LA) 38 .143 .351 .143 68 0 0.1

What happened in 2014: Showed off power in spring training. Became the first Pacific Coast League player in 80 years to hit 30 or more home runs and steal 30 or more bases. The last player who did it did so in 186 games. Got a cup of coffee with the Dodgers in September.

When the Dodgers drafted Joc Pederson in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, there was always a chance he could become a good player. I remember early on when Baseball America said he projected to have “average” tools across the board. Normally, the term “average” has a somewhat negative connotation to it, but not in this case. Now, he’s showing he’s a little above-average in some categories.

Pederson got an invite to the big league club in spring training and stuck with the team until the end of the spring. Mike wrote about him at the end of February.

“Today in Arizona, Joc Pederson did the second-best thing to taking a five-iron to Matt Kemp‘s ankle in terms of trying to make the team: he took Chicago’s Jake Petricka deep down the left field line ifor a home run in the seventh inning. Petricka’s not exactly Chris Sale or anything, but he is a noted groundballer who had allowed only 14 homers in 352.2 minor league innings, so taking him deep is an accomplishment.

Pederson is still not very likely to make the Opening Day roster, but he’s not doing anything to diminish his prospect status… or his trade value. Either way, we’ve heard so much about him over the last four years since the Dodgers took him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft that it’s fun to see him live and in person — or on television, whatever — and doing the things we’ve all heard he’s capable of. I’m still not sure we’ll ever see him as a Dodger in the big leagues. For right now, I’m enjoying what I can get.”

That lede is classic Mike. And he was right. Pederson did not make the Opening Day roster (but wasn’t right about the second-to-last sentence). Despite that, I looked at what it would have taken for him to have broken camp with the Dodgers.

“While Pederson is arguably as talented as those two (probably more so), he isn’t going to win a job over them in spring training. We all know spring training stats are generally useless, let’s remember Puig hit .514/.500/.828 last year and began the season at Double-A. Pederson is hitting .250/.423/.600 in 12 games this spring. If he were Puiging this spring training, he might have a more solid case.

The Dodgers’ top three outfielders would have to be on the DL for an extended period of time for Pederson to make the team. It wouldn’t make sense to have him up for only a handful of games, just to send him down to Triple-A.”

That, obviously, didn’t happen, which was good because the Dodgers’ outfield was extremely productive. And Pederson was so at Triple-A Albuquerque. He got off to a hot start and was named the PCL MVP and shared Dodger Minor League Player of the Year honors with Corey Seager.

We called for Pederson to be recalled on a number of occasions, but none more so than in July after (painfully) watching Andre Ethier play center field in Colorado and Detroit.

“The obvious solution: recall Joc Pederson (who is back from his shoulder injury) and play him every day in center field. It doesn’t make any sense to bring him up otherwise. Pederson isn’t lauded for his defense, despite Baseball America naming him the system’s best defensive outfielder heading into the 2013 season. He’s probably average out there with average-to-solid-average range. Still, he’d look like in-his-prime Andruw Jones compared to Ethier out there.”

I saw Pederson misplay an Adam Eaton line drive into, what the official scorer generously ruled, an inside-the-park home run. I mean, he isn’t going to be mistaken for Juan Lagares, but he’s a capable center fielder at this junction of his career.

The next day, Mike wrote about how the Dodgers get to Pederson.

“As it’s always been, how to make that happen is the big problem. Puig obviously isn’t going anywhere, and I don’t think the Dodgers really want to trade Kemp, who has shown some life in his bat — he’s hitting just under his career average, but not by much — and would be difficult to move with approximately $117 million left on his contract anyway. I think we’d all agree they’d be thrilled to move Crawford (~$71m left) or Ethier (~$63m left), though of course the extremely minimal — negative, even — trade value each has is a huge problem.

No, they aren’t going to simply DFA one. I have some ideas about where, and for who. We’ll get to that over the next few days, but that’s really a separate conversation. For now, what’s becoming all too clear is that with what we’ve learned about the guys in the bigs and the guy in the minors, change is coming. It might not be easy or smooth or simple. But it is coming.

But please, please, when Pederson does arrive, let’s try to keep those expectations in check. He can’t be expected to be a repeat of 2013 Puig. His outstanding total line of .322/.443/.570 is absolutely inflated by his unreasonable numbers in Albuquerque, .386/.521/.677. His defense is best considered a work in progress; if that immediately makes him better than the rest of this league-worst center field defensive crew, that’s certainly a worthwhile upgrade, it just isn’t going to make him Carlos Gomez or Juan Lagares. I really am worried that too many Dodger fans consider him some kind of savior. It’s unfair, and it’s unrealistic. He is coming, though, most likely sooner than later. How exactly that happens should be among the most interesting stories of the next week.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t come up until September, and fans definitely didn’t keep their expectations in check.

https://twitter.com/JohnDcs31011/status/519334531556311041

Twitter has spoken, apparently. Nice to see these folks make such a declaration after 38 plate appearances in the majors. ‘Tevs.

While *spoiler alert* this didn’t end well, it was pretty damn exciting.

The good about Pederson’s 38-PA debut, he walked nine times (23.7 percent walk rate). The bad, he struck out 11 times (28.9 percent strikeout rate). He averaged 4.39 pitches per plate appearance. If he qualified (and were able to keep up that pace), that rate would have been good for third-best in the majors. The fact that he’s a patient hitter is a blessing and a curse, as he let too many pitches go by in his first taste of MLB. But he’s immensely talented and will be OK.

When Yasiel Puig was moved to center field and handled it rather capably, I pondered about Pederson’s future with the Dodgers.

“This isn’t particularly great news for Pederson’s prospects of debuting before September. He went from a lock to be the Dodgers’ center fielder in the playoffs to getting a cup of coffee in September. Pederson, 22, profiles better in left field long-term, but he’ll be able to handle center field early in his career.

Luckily, Puig’s emergence in center field makes it a little easier to stomach trading Pederson for an upgrade elsewhere. Enter Giancarlo Stanton.

(sic)

My obsession over Stanton, 24, is well-documented, and I’d give up all of the prospects to get him in Dodger Blue. But a package led by Pederson and Julio Urias would be a nice starting point for the slugger, who is about to get really expensive (I’d even consider including Corey Seager). He’s making $6.5 million this season, and figures to push eight figures this offseason in arbitration. That isn’t a prohibitive amount for any team not named the Astros, but the Marlins could cash in big time this winter if they trade Stanton, who is going to bolt via free agency in a few years anyway.

This is getting too close to rosterbating, but in the span of a two weeks, Puig has gone from profile right fielder to passable center fielder. Pederson has gone from 10-year center fielder to trade bait (he was already, but he’s a little more expendable at this point). But let’s just be happy with Puig’s play in center field for now.”

Well, that obviously isn’t happening. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are putting their faith in the young center fielder, even if Friedman hasn’t fully (publicly) committed to Pederson being the team’s starting center fielder going into spring training.

With Matt Kemp traded and Puig moving back to right field, I’d say it’s all but a certainty Pederson is the Dodgers’ starter in center come April 6. There’s almost no chance this front office allows Ethier (if he’s still around) to open as the team’s center fielder, salary number be damned.

2015 status: Making the league-minimum, 23 years old, slated to be the team’s center fielder and will have his chance at big league stardom. Here’s hoping he gets a better number than 65. He wore No. 3 in Albuquerque (Crawford), No. 29 (Tim Wallach) in Chattanooga (2013) and No. 31 (Brandon McCarthy?) in Rancho Cucamonga (2012). I’m thinking No. 9 for Pederson would be nifty. This concludes “Things only Dustin cares about,” and the Joc Pederson season review.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.