Over the last two seasons there were calls for the Los Angeles Dodgers to promote Joc Pederson to the Majors as the need for a center fielder steadily grew. When injuries decimated the group of outfielders in 2013 it was Yasiel Puig, not Pederson, who was promoted from the Minors.
Pederson’s time arrived in September last season after he became the first PCL player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in 80 years and was named MVP. As expected, Pederson showed flashes of his ballyhooed potential in his brief stint with the Dodgers, but also had growing pains at the plate.
In 38 plate appearances, Pederson hit .143/.351/.143 and struck out 11 times. During his time at Triple-A Albuquerque, Pederson had 149 strikeouts in 553 plate appearances. After participating at the Dodgers Winter Development Camp, Pederson told Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com he will report to Spring Training early:
I’m going to go out early to Arizona and workout with outfield coordinator, and work on some routes to make sure my defense is on point.”
As for finding a balance between being aggressive and working the count, it’s an issue the young outfielder is well aware of and intends to improve on:
I go up there looking to do some damage at the plate and I think that helps. When you’re trying to really crush a ball if it’s not in the zone, then I feel like they’re going to take it because you can’t get a good swing on it. That’s kind of the approach I take. It came with higher strikeouts than I like and that’s been brought to my awareness so that’s something that I’m also working on.”
Pederson is expected to compete with Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey for the starting job in center field now that Matt Kemp has been traded and Puig will likely be moved back to right field.
Should Pederson not win the job, it may mean a return to the Minors as manager Don Mattingly said recently he wouldn’t benefit from being with the team and not playing on a regular basis.