When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, they had a sense of who his replacement would be. That honor, or pressure, of course fell on the shoulders of 23-year-old Joc Pederson.
Pederson had done extremely well in Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014, blasting 33 home runs and stealing 30 bases to become the first player to post a 30-30 season in the Pacific Coast League in 80 years. Pederson also played a stellar center field, which the Dodgers hadn’t seen in years.
While plenty of the focus currently on Pederson is his strikeout rate and diminishing offensive production at the plate, he’s yet to make his mark on the basepaths. According to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, that’s tied to Pederson being unable to get the same leads he did in the Minors, via Tyler Kepner of the New York Times:
Mattingly said Pederson’s stolen bases were down because his style in the minors, where he excelled by taking walking leads, did not work in the majors. “They’re not going to let you keep moving here,” Mattingly said.”
So far this season Pederson has stolen just two bases and been caught six times, equating to a lowly -1.1 baserunning runs above average. Of course the larger issue may be in Pederson’s difficulty in reaching first base.
The rookie center fielder is striking out 29.8 percent of the time this season to just a 14 percent walk rate. While Pederson does have a .283 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), he leads the National League with 122 strikeouts, which ranks second overall.
Pederson was recently dropped in the lineup and on Friday given the night off with a left-handed pitcher on the mound. Mattingly has recently discussed wanting to relieve some of the pressure that’s been placed on Pederson, but also voicing his support for the young star.