Let’s face it; a lot of talk this season for the Dodgers is centered on the team’s young talent. Corey Seager, who is only 22 years old, is showing to be the team’s most consistent position player. Trayce Thompson, aged 25, is filling the void (and more) in the outfield left by the aging (and now cut) Carl Crawford. Heck, even fans are starting to get giddy about what 19-year old pitcher Julio Urías can do for the Dodgers. He keeps getting better and better each time he goes out and starts.
All of this praise is warranted, but there is one young Dodger that seems to fly under the radar. And that is Joc Pederson, who like Seager, is only making half a million dollars a year but is thought of quite differently amongst the Dodger community.
We all know Pederson can field. Last year, Vin Scully said Pederson “looks to be the best fielding center the Dodgers have ever had, and that’s saying a lot.” High praise to say the least.
Great throw by @yungjoc650 to get Sean Rodriguez out at home to end the fourth!
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 27, 2016
But he also can hit too. And when he does hit the ball, the ball tends to go very far.
Kickin' off the #FirstDayOfSummer like…
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 21, 2016
Pederson, who was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 draft (which feels very low considering he was deemed as the Dodgers’ #1 prospect by Baseball America in 2013) quickly rose up the Dodgers minor league ranks, benefited most when Matt Kemp was traded to the Padres, leaving a gaping hole in center field. Ever since Pederson joined the big leagues, he has been seen as a “boom or bust” guy, which means he either hit home runs or he struck out. Last year, Pederson had a whopping 170 strikeouts on the season. This, of course, led him to have a pedestrian .210 average.
This year Pederson promised to change his swing, and slowly his numbers have been improving. This season Pederson has a .235 average (which is interestingly slightly above Trayce Thompson’s average), his slugging percentage has gone up, and his on base percentage has gone up as well. Pederson finished last season with 26 home runs, and already has half of that total already for this season (13), so expect to see a higher home run total for Pederson this season. Only Seager has more home runs than Pederson for the Dodgers. Pederson will also on track to surpass his season high’s in doubles and RBI’s.
However, by no means does Pederson deserve all praise for improving. Pederson is a liability when left handed pitchers start, as he only bats .154 with 1 home run against southpaws. (He bats .246 with 12 home runs against righties.) This could be deadly if Pederson is faced with the task of batting against Madison Bumgarner with a playoff spot on the line, or left handed pitchers intentionally pitching to Pederson in a crucial moment in a playoff game.
Preaching Pederson is going to take patience, something Dodgers fans do not want to hear. Just to add, Pederson is technically a free agent after this season, and is under team control. One might wonder how much of a pay raise Pederson will get next winter.