Despite trading Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres in the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers still faced questions and a logjam in their outfield heading into Spring Training.
Yasiel Puig is slated to be the every day right fielder and it appears Carl Crawford will man left field. With Puig no longer in center, it leaves a vacancy up for grabs with Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, and to a lesser extent, Chris Heisey and Scott Van Slyke competing for the starting job.
Pederson has been the most impressive so far this spring. He is batting .429 with two home runs, three doubles and six RBIs in 28 plate appearances — numbers far superior to to Ethier, who is batting .182, and Heisey, who is batting .100.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wouldn’t yet name Pederson the Opening Day starter, but said the club was happy with his progress:
We haven’t made any decision yet on who’s going to play where, but we do like the way things are going for Joc.”
Mattingly further elaborated on what Pederson is doing well:
We’re still competing, but obviously we like what we see,” Mattingly said. “We look at the process as much as hitting .409 [Pederson’s average coming into Tuesday]. How he’s working, how he’s dealing with it all. I was talking to him today about having good at-bats and taking that into the season.”
Last year in Triple-A, Pederson became the first Pacific Coast League player in 80 years to have a 30-30 season. He batted .303 with 33 home runs, 78 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. Despite the success, he struggled after being called up to the Majors in September; he went just 4-for-28 (.143) with 11 strikeouts in limited action.
Pederson is said to be the best defensive center fielder in the organization, which should buy him some time in the event he struggles at bit at the plate in the early stages of the season.
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