With the National League Division Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets now only hours away from beginning, Dodgers’ lineup questions will soon be answered.
For as much attention as the battle at shortstop between Jimmy Rollins and Corey Seager has received, the Dodgers face a similar decision in center field. Rookie Joc Pederson started the majority of the season at center, 147 games, but when he was struggling to find his rhythm at the plate, utility man Kiké Hernandez replaced him and found success.
Hernandez received the bulk of starts in center field upon returning from a hamstring strain. Likely an indication of what’s to come in the NLDS, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’s at ease with the direction the club will go in, which included mention of Pederson.
“I don’t feel that stressed over center,” he said. “I feel good about where we’re going to go. Both [Hernandez and Pederson] are good options. Both guys run it down, and obviously both are young; basically two rookies out there. Kiké can play multiple positions, and Joc has played center field really well. He can handle everything well, so I feel good about either way we go.”
On the season, Pederson posted a .210/.346/.417 slash line to go with 26 home runs and 54 RBIs, but had 170 strikeouts. Defensively, Pederson had a .986 fielding percentage with only four errors.
Hernandez on the other hand hit .307/.346/.490 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs. In 19 games (18 starts) playing center, Hernandez played a spotless 148.2 innings. While Hernandez may get the nod to start, Pederson could still prove valuable for the Dodgers as a defensive replacement off the bench or a pinch-runner.