Over the last three seasons, any discussion involving the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers has included Joc Pederson’s name. Considered one of the club’s top prospects, Pederson made his Major League debut last September and is widely expected to take over in center field this season.
As is often the case with any young player attempting to break out in the Majors, plate discipline tends to be one of the more difficult adjustments when transitioning from the Minors. Pederson’s strikeout rate is a criticism he’s faced in recent years but it isn’t something he appears overly concerned with, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
I’m just working to get better. I’m not a perfect player. I’m going to strike out. It’s not like I’m trying to strike out. I just need to continue to work to grow as a hitter.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly previously compared Pederson’s swing to that of Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and he said Thursday Pederson’s body control is key:
The one thing we talked about with Joc is to make sure he has control of his body because he has the leg kick,” Mattingly said before the game. “You’ve got to have that under control. You’ve got to be able to slow it down.”
Pederson appeared in 18 games last season with the Dodgers and struck out in 11 of his 38 plate appearances; however, he also drew nine walks. Through six games (14 plate appearances) this spring, he has four strikeouts and zero walks.
It hasn’t been an easy landscape for Pederson, who’s faced Jon Lester and James Shields in the Dodgers’ last two games. The ebb and flow of Thursday’s game saw him strike out against San Diego Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush, then hit the decided home run in the ninth inning.
While there may be growing pains with Pederson at the plate, what he brings to the table defensively and moving forward is why he’s expected to be the starter in center field come April 6.
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