It’s been four years since we saw a 22-year-old Joc Pederson make his MLB debut at Dodger Stadium. Although he only stepped up to the plate 38 times in 2014, Dodgers fans everywhere were eagerly waiting. Waiting to see the potential of one of the more highly-touted prospects in recent memory. Four years later, Dodgers fans were eagerly waiting again. Eagerly waiting to see Pederson either released, or traded away. So, what happened? How did a player go from being the most anticipated, to being the most hated, in only a few years? It took almost four years for fans to completely lose confidence in him. Now, all it’s taken is one month, for fans to recapture that glimmer of hope, the hope they all coveted four seasons ago.
Before we talk about how we got to this point, let’s talk about the beginning. Joc Pederson was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. At the young age of 18, Pederson began his journey in low-A ball. In his first season, Pederson played 84 games, having a slash-line of .323/.407/.503. He hit 11 homers and drove in 65. Notably, he also stole 26 bases. Not too shabby.
A year later, he was promoted to High-A, and spent the season with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He appeared in 110 games, posting a .313/.396/.516 slash-line. He had 18 home runs and 70 RBI, as well as another 26 stolen bases. Slowly but surely, Pederson was showing signs of being a potential star.
He spent the next season playing in Double-A. In 123 games, his line was .278/.381/.497. Though his overall slash-line decreased a little, his power and speed took a rise. He smashed 22 home runs, as well as added 31 stolen bases. Joc was catching the eyes of Dodgers personal, as well as fans. A player with his power and speed, as well as great defensive ability was beginning to bring a lot of excitement in LA. Oh, and he was only 21-years-old.
Then, his Triple-A campaign. In 121 games, Pederson proved to be one of the better minor leaguers in the country. He posted a .303/.435/.582 slash-line. His OPS was over .1000. Pederson hit 33 homers and drove in 78 runs. He also stole 30 bases, making him a member of the illustrious 30/30 club. At this point, almost every Dodgers fan knew his name, and were pleading for the Dodgers to call him up. In September of 2014, they finally did.
His Rookie Campaign
As mentioned earlier, Pederson only appeared in a handful of games in 2014. He only had 38 plate appearances, and didn’t really make much of an impact. He hit .143, and only managed four hits in his short time, but Dodgers fans weren’t worried. Joc would make the opening day roster in 2015, and it appeared he was everything as advertised. In the month of April, Pederson had a line of .298/.461/.596. On top of that, he already had four homers to go along with 10 RBI. In the month of May, his power increased, drastically. Pederson hit nine home runs, showing the raw power he displayed in the minors. It came at a price, though. His line decreased, drastically, hitting .236/.341/.519.
The power was still there in June. He clubbed seven home runs, and drove in 14 runs, but yet again, his line was decreasing. In June, he hit .222/.379/.495. Slowly, things were looking to fall apart for the rookie.
Due to his hot April, and high home run numbers, Joc Pederson was selected to the 2015 All-Star team. Due to some injuries, he ended up starting. On top of making the game, he also participated in the Home-Run Derby, finishing runner up to Todd Frazier.
Rookie Campaign Struggles
The break didn’t seem to help, as Pederson’s line for July was .169/.229/.258. The power seemed to have been lost as well, as he only managed to hit one home run the entire month.
The rest of the season didn’t prove to be any better. He finished August hitting .120, and .197 in September. The long ball appeared to be gone as well, hitting only four homers over the course of his final 139 at-bats. Joc’s rookie campaign was over. His final line was .210/.346/.417. He did finish with 26 home runs however, but that was tarnished by his abysmal hitting, as well as his 170 strikeouts.
Though 2016 wasn’t the season Dodgers fans were hoping for from Joc, it was a somewhat good improvement over his rookie year. He hit 25 home runs, one less than the year before, but drove in 68 runs, 14 more than the previous season. His overall line was much better as well, at .246/.352/.495, while posting an impressive .847 OPS. Dodgers fans knew Joc’s power would be there. If he could just improve his hitting, he would be the player fans were eagerly waiting on just a few years back.
Then, 2017 came along.
On opening day, Pederson hit a grand-slam, and totaled five RBI on the day. Though it was a one game sample size, his performance appeared as if he was ready to silence the doubters. It turned out his opening day game would be his best game for the rest of the season. His next home run wouldn’t come for nearly two months, and his hitting was nowhere to be found. Entering June, Pederson was hitting below .200. He was striking out in nearly 25 percent of his plate appearances. In August, he officially hit rock bottom. He found himself in a slump, and he couldn’t seem to dig himself out of it. During a 14-game stretch, Joc went 1-for-38 (.026 Avg). He had a total of two bases.
It was clear something was wrong, and a change needed to happen. On Aug. 19, the Dodgers optioned Joc Pederson to the minors, with the hopes he could figure things out, and come back to help the ball club out for a potential postseason run. Pederson spent 17 games in Oklahoma City, and simply couldn’t figure it out there either. His slash line was an abysmal .169/.225/.323. He was called back up on Sept. 5, and the struggles continued. He hit .105 (2-for-19) in the month of September, and had a total of two bases. Over the course of 29 games, Pederson managed to accumulate a total of six bases, a number a lot of major leaguers can get in only one game.
Joc’s final line on the season was .212/.331/.407, the worst of his first three seasons as a major-leaguer. Countless times, the Dodgers gave Joc opportunities to try and prove he was worthy of a roster spot. After three seasons, it looked as if his career in Dodger blue was slowly coming to a close.
Joc Pederson began the postseason off of the active roster. He missed the series against the D-Backs, and was activated on Oct. 14. In the series versus the Cubs, Pederson got one start, and he took advantage of it. Joc would hit a double and score a run in his lone start. Pretty good, but nothing memorable by any means.
After three years of struggles, it appeared Pederson saved his best performance for the biggest stage in baseball, the World Series. In game two versus the Astros, Pederson hit a towering home run, tying the game at one. In game three, Pederson would continue his hot swing, finishing 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored. Game four provided one of the more memorable home runs in recent Dodgers memory. Up two runs in the ninth, Pederson crushed one into right field, giving the Dodgers a 6-1 lead, and helping them even the series at two games a piece.
The clutch-factor didn’t stop there. In game six, while facing elimination, Pederson showed his heroics yet again. Up by a run, Pederson went opposite-field with a solo shot, giving the Dodgers a comfortable two-run lead.
Had the Dodgers won the World Series, my guess is that Joc Pederson would have been one of the favorites to be named World Series MVP, which is crazy to think about. After years of disappointment surrounding Pederson, it appeared he was ready to turn things around.
When Joc was announced to the opening day roster, there was a major outcry from fans. It appeared many seemed to forget about his incredible postseason performance. Nevertheless, there was still a majority of people saying other players should have gotten the spot as opposed to him.
Through the first month of the season, things appeared to be back to normal for Pederson. On April 25, Joc was hitting .190 with a .306 OBP and .310 SLG. However, he would finish April on a high-note. To wrap up the month, Pederson went 11-for-17, bringing his slash-line to .288/.394/.458. It appeared new life was rejuvenated into the 26-year-old. May wasn’t too particularly kind to Joc. During the month, he hit .211/.278/.324. Numbers we had seen far too many times. Even more unsettling, he hit zero home runs the entire month. Though his numbers were usually low, the long ball was something he wouldn’t shy away from. Two months into the season, Pederson had only one home run.
The Month of June
Years down the road, if we try and remember when exactly it was Joc turned his career around, we’ll all remember his unforgettable month of June. When it all began? June 2, in beautiful Denver, Colorado. On the day, Pederson went 4-for-5, hitting two home runs, and finished with 11 total bases. That was just the beginning.
Pederson left Denver with the hottest bat on the team, and put it to good use in Pittsburgh. In the three-game series, Joc hit three home runs. His power surge continued, as he clubbed 10 long balls in the month of June. His slash line was amongst the best for a month in his career, as he hit .283/.358/.867/1.225. For Joc, a large reason to his success was his patience at the plate. When Joc would fall behind 0-1 in the count, his line was .194/.265/.516/.781. Now, when Joc got ahead 1-0 in the count, it was an entirely different story. If Joc saw a ball with the first pitch, he hit .318/.423/1.091/1.514.
A Brand New Joc
July wasn’t quite the same as June for Joc, but his numbers didn’t regress. In the second half of the season, Pederson is hitting .327/.340/.653/.993. As of August 4, Joc is amidst a career season. In back-to-back games, he has led off with a home run. His five for the year rank him second in all of baseball. With eight for his career, Joc has the third most leadoff home runs in Dodgers history. For Pederson, who early in his career was seen as more of a middle of the lineup kind of player, has found great success in the leadoff position. On the season, he’s hitting .382 when he leads off and has an OPS 1.358. Amongst players who have led off 36 times this season, Joc ranks first in both those categories.
He has career highs in batting average (.261), slugging percentage (.539) and OPS (.874). His patience at the plate is by far his biggest improvement, as his strikeout percentage is down to 15.9 percent. Last year it was at 21 percent, and the year before it was 27 percent.
Although it’s been a long and stressful process, it appears Joc Pederson is finally coming into his own, and has proven himself as a viable member to this Dodgers team. With so many players fighting for playing time, Pederson has quietly gone about his business, and showed he’s worthy of an every day starting job. There’s no question that Joc is playing with an all-time high level of confidence, and for Dodgers fans, it’s heartwarming to see.
Joc knew his career wasn’t going as planned. He knew what he was capable of. Playing in a market like Los Angeles comes with a lot of pressure, especially considering he was a top prospect as well. Facing adversity, Joc battled through, and completely turned his career around, giving it the resurgence it so desperately needed.
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