The Los Angeles Dodgers traded their leadoff man Dee Gordon in the offseason, leaving the team with no clear leadoff hitter.
Until this point, veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins seemed like he would assume that role. He has batted leadoff most of his career and been successful. Up until Wednesday, he had been in the leadoff spot in every game he started, but he has been struggling. With Rollins batting just .185 this season, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly thought it was time to change up his lineup.
That change included moving rookie center fielder Joc Pederson, who has displayed all five tools in the first month of the season, into the leadoff spot. Pederson responded by leading off Wednesday night’s game with a home run against San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
Pederson has mainly hit in the eighth spot up until this point, but according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, Mattingly felt that he was ready to take on a bigger role in the offense:
I think I’ve always looked at him as someone who, if he’s in your order, that you feel like is dangerous and a really good hitter,” Mattingly said of Pederson. “I’ve always looked at it like that. I also looked at him as a young player you want to let come in really with less expectations than more. I just think it makes it easier for a guy to come in and just get on base, do your thing. When you’re sitting back in the 7, 8 hole, you don’t feel if you’re not hitting at all, you’re not really killing the club.
Pederson went 1-for-3 with a walk, and the one being the leadoff home run. He is batting .298 with four homers and a .461 on-base percentage through the first month of the season. While Mattingly liked Pederson in the leadoff role, he is still unclear whether he will remain there or not:
I think it was a good place for him to start. And he may end up back there. There aren’t any promises that he’s going to stay there (at leadoff). Obviously, we don’t know what happens when Yasiel comes back and things like that. But for now, we think with our group of guys that he kind of fits right there.”
The rookie has displayed both power and speed in his young career, as he was the first player in 80 years to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) last year.
Pederson may be just the spark the Dodgers offense needs at the top of the lineup to become the elite offense that many think they can be.
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