Over the last two seasons Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig have been connected for a less-than-flattering reason. Both young and rising players who at times can rub their opposition the wrong way, Harper and Puig have appeared on consecutive lists as the most overrated player in the Majors.
Harper, 22 and the No. 1 overall pick from the 2010 draft, is in his fourth season with the Nationals. Puig, 24, signed as an amateur free agent out of Cuba, is in his third season with the Dodgers. While Puig has long commanded the spotlight in the Dodgers’ outfield, he’s received new competition this season in the form of Joc Pederson.
The rookie center fielder has quickly made his presence felt with one dazzling catch after another and his nine home runs that are tied for the team lead and good for second in the National League.
Pederson’s play has also caught Harper’s attention, who sent the elder (by six months) Pederson some words of encouragement via text message, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News:
Joc Pederson said Bryce Harper texted him last night to say 'keep it up.' Harper hit three homers early today. Pederson responded with two.
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) May 7, 2015
This season Harper is batting .284/.426/.627 with 10 home runs, five doubles, 25 RBIs and an MLB-best 26 walks in 129 plate appearances heading into play Saturday. Pederson is hitting .264/.425/.632 with the aforementioned nine home runs, 19 RBIs and 24 walks, which ranks third in the Majors, over 114 plate appearances.
The pair of young outfielders also have a nearly identical number of strikeouts with Pederson having gone down 38 times and Harper 37. While Harper’s three-home run game was impressive, Pederson too has shined, clubbing seven home runs in the last 10 games and excelling as the team’s leadoff hitter.
The Dodgers, who recently moved ahead of the Nationals as the favorite to win the 2015 World Series, won’t face Washington until July 17 when they begin a three-game set in the nation’s capital.
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