Going into the 2015 season perhaps the biggest question mark for the Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly is juggling the still-crowded outfield. Yasiel Puig returns to right field and it appears likely a righty/lefty platoon of Scott Van Slyke and Carl Crawford will occupy the corner; leaving center field up for grabs.
According to ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS top-100 MLB prospects for 2015, Joc Pederson is ranked the No. 2 prospect:
Joc Pederson, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers (ZiPS No. 2 prospect, Law’s No. 28)
The concerns about Pederson hitting left-handed pitchers in the high minors evaporated in 2014, with Pederson actually hitting for a slightly better OPS against lefties (.995 combined at all levels) than righties (.980). There’s a lot of air to be taken out of Albuquerque, but ZiPS still saw Pederson’s translated 2014 minor league season, even when combined with a disappointing cup of coffee, as a respectable .724 OPS line for the year. This isn’t 2001, and that OPS would make Pederson a solidly average to plus center fielder in the majors right now.
Under the ZiPS projection, which predicts the top-100 prospects based on their wins above replacement (WAR), Pederson is ranked behind Chicago Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant. Pederson, who was ranked 11th on the same list in 2014, struggled in limited action as a September call-up last season, going 4-for-28 with 11 strikeouts.
However, Pederson did walk nine times, which contributed to his .351 on-base percentage. In Triple-A Albuquerque he excelled, batting .303 with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases. The 30-30 season was the first in Pacific Coast League since 1934 and he was named PCL MVP.
An earlier ZiPS prediction released in January has Pederson batting .239/.337/.420 with 22 homers and a WAR of 3.3 in 2015, which would rank him third among Dodgers position players — behind Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig.
Andre Ethier, who is Pederson’s biggest competition for the starting job in center fiel, is projected to bat .259/.335/.392 with a 1.1 WAR. The only other Dodger to make the ZiPS top-100 prospects list is Austin Barnes (No. 58).
The 25-year-old catcher, who was acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade, is likely to begin the season in the Minors, but could see time when active Major-League rosters expand in September.