After getting his feet wet in the Majors last season by appearing in 18 September games when active rosters expanded, Joc Pederson reported for Spring Training under the expectation and assumption he’d become the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting center fielder for the 2015 season.
Manager Don Mattingly never publicly anointed Pederson the starter, but there the rookie was, anchoring the outfield on Opening Day against the San Diego Padres. Pederson rose to stardom as he displayed both steady and flashy defense in center, and discipline and power at the plate.
However, as the All-Star break approached the 23 year old began to slump. His struggles at the plate have carried over to the second half of the season, though there’s been recent improvement in his on-base percentage. Pederson nonetheless has in a sense been displaced by Kiké Hernandez as the club’s starting center fielder.
With the Dodgers facing a left-handed starter in Cincinnati Reds rookie John Lamb on Tuesday night, Pederson was out of the lineup for a third consecutive game. Rather than express frustration or anger over the reduced role, he is understanding of the change, according to ESPN’s Mark Saxon:
We’re in a time when we need to win ballgames and put the best team out there and that’s not me right now,” Pederson said. “I can live with that.”
Pederson also discussed moving on from his struggles and the importance of still contributing for the betterment of the team:
I think that I really struggled right before the All-Star break and right after. There were some things that were just baseball. You hit it hard, it goes at them. You strike out a lot. Some things don’t go your way,” Pederson said. “But it’s the past. It’s not a big deal. I need to continue to grow as a player. I’m not worried, I’m not panicked. I’m here happy and ready to help the team, whatever it is,” Pederson said. “It’s not about me.”
Prior to the All-Star Game Pederson hit .230/.364/.487 with 20 home runs, 40 RBIs, 107 strikeouts and 58 walks over 89 games. In 21 games since the Midsummer Classic, he’s hitting .163/.333/.293 with three home runs, seven RBIs, 35 strikeouts and 21 walks.
The month of July was particularly unkind for the rookie as Pederson posted a .229 on-base percentage over 23 games (22 starts) and had 31 strikeouts to just four walks.
His August OBP sits at .413 and he’s countered 17 strikeouts in the month by drawing 20 walks in 19 games (15 starts); included in that are five games with at least two walks after he didn’t have any multi-walk games in July.
Although Pederson has remedied some of his issues at the plate, he’s unlikely to start Wednesday as the Dodgers will again face a lefty. Including Wednesday’s contest, Los Angeles is slated to see a left-handed starter in two of their next five games.