After the Los Angeles Dodgers traded away Matt Kemp, a player believed to be the backbone of the franchise at the time, the focus and pressure shifted onto rookie center fielder Joc Pederson.
Pederson hit 33 home runs and stole 30 bases in 2014 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, but once he arrived in the Majors as a September call-up, the success didn’t carry over. He had only four hits in 38 plate appearances and struck out plenty.
Although the center fielder’s 2015 season is off to a great start, strikeouts remain an issue. Heading into Monday’s game Pederson has the third-most strikeouts in the National League with 39, but is also tied for first in walks with 27.
Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire expressed little concern over Pederson’s strikeout volume, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
The potential that he has is off the charts,” McGwire said. “The strikeouts, I’m not worried about – as long as he’s walking. If he does 100 and 100 (strikeouts and walks), I’m OK with it. The potential of 30 and 100 (home runs and RBI) is right there. The potential of hitting .300 is right there. But that comes with knowledge of what pitchers are doing and he’s still learning.
While strikeouts can be a bad sign for an aging player, they are not necessarily a deal-breaker when referring to a younger player. Manager Don Mattingly believes the 23 year old will improve as the season progresses, via ESPN’s Mark Saxon:
His number of strikeouts was a concern going into spring training — was he going to be able to put the ball in play enough?” Mattingly said. “I think he’s going to get better and better. I think he’ll strike out less and less once he knows what they’re doing to him and he understands the guys that he’s facing.
Pederson only has 157 plate appearances under his belt and there is certainly plenty of room for improvement. With nine home runs, the youngster is seeing the ball much better than he did when he first got his feet wet in the Majors and has reached base in all but three games in which he has started.
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