Before Joc Pederson even reached the Major Leagues, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called him the best center fielder in the organization.
In 2014, the Dodgers went through a handful of center fielders before settling on Yasiel Puig, who did well at the position. Pederson came in and took the center field position this spring, and has done everything the Dodgers have expected thus far. On Wednesday night, the rookie showed off his defensive skills, robbing Mike Zunino of a hit with a diving catch and later throwing out Zunino at home plate on a single.
According to Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times, Dodger manager Don Mattingly had high praise for his 22-year-old center fielder:
Joc is a solid defender,” Mattingly said. “That talks to the importance of what he’s capable of doing out there kind of on an everyday basis. Not so much having to make the spectacular plays, but just the bread and butter, getting good jumps, running good routes, being solid for us.”
Through the first nine games, Pederson has made all the plays in the outfield and does look natural at the position. Meanwhile, at the plate, it appears he is getting more comfortable. He has at least one hit in his last four games, and owns a .444 on-base percentage on the season. Being in the eighth spot for the most part thus far, Pederson is often a victim of his spot because he bats in front of the pitcher. Pitchers can work around him in order to get to the pitchers’ spot.
Mattingly knows the difficulty of the spot, but believes he can succeed:
It’s a tough spot for a young player, that eight hole,” Mattingly said. “Tough spot for him to know when to be patient. He has a good eye so I think it’s just him staying with his game plan.”
Pederson was a top prospect for a reason and he is beginning to show that early in the season.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Scott Van Slyke