Joc Pederson was once our rising center-fielder. Crushing home runs all around the league and showing a solid glove, it seemed he was only going to get better. When 2017 came around, many had great expectations for him, but through underwhelming performance and injuries, Joc found himself out of the starting gig. Since then Chris Taylor has seemingly cemented his spot in center-field, and Joc is now going to jostle for left-field.
What caused him to take a major step back in 2017? What can he do to take a step forward again in 2018? Lastly, what would a resurgent Joc Pederson mean to the Dodgers in 2018?
Let us start with the last question first. What would a resurgent Joc Pederson mean for the Dodgers? First, for starters, no pun intended, it would solve our “problem” in left-field. Joc returning to a 2016 form would allow the Dodgers to not have to look outside the organization or field a platoon. Remember, in 2016 he put up a 3.6 fWAR/3.4 bWAR and a solid .246/.352/.495 triple-slash. Likewise that 3.6 fWAR would have been good for 19th best for outfielders in the Majors in 2017. As of right now FanGraphs is projecting between a 2.2 and 2.5 fWAR in around 110 games. If Joc can put up a line around the .240/.340/.460 range, that would be such a boom to our already deep lineup.
So then, what caused him to take such a major step backwards in 2017? Well, a number of things happened. First and foremost was his injuries. He dealt with various injuries including issues with his neck and shoulder. In addition to injuries, after a lengthy slump in July he was demoted. Because of this and other various factors, his numbers dropped significantly. Hitting way more ground-balls and pulling more balls will generally lead to more outs. Combine that with fewer hard-hit balls, and your batting average will plummet. It is easy to blame injuries for poor performance, but at the same time some of the blame rests on Joc.
In spite of all this, 2017 ended on quite the high note for Joc. After retooling his swing at AAA in August, we began to see it pay dividends in the playoffs. In the World Series he hit .304/.360/.826 with 3 homers. Most fans would agree his approach seemed better, and that his confidence was back.
I mean just look at how pumped he was on this shot in Game 4:
Fortunately for Joc Pederson, he still has plenty of time and opportunity to right the ship. He is still only going to be 26 this coming season, and has shown plenty of potential. With the left-field options limited beyond him, he will have plenty of chances to establish himself as the starter. After a World Series performance like his, you better believe the brass will give him all the chances he will take.
Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times spoke with Farhan Zaidi about this very topic. Here is what Zaidi had to say:
It’s just going to be a matter of conditioning and consistency. He knows what he needs to do. I think he’s in as good a frame of mind as he’s been for the last three years.
Here’s to seeing absolute moonshots like this again in 2018!
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