Joc Pederson And His Struggles Were To Be Expected


Patience Is A Virtue, being rushed up can end in disaster

Dee Gordon

Knows Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

This is a scary, scary thing. It’s been a hilariously bad year for rookie position players in baseball. In the AL Jose Abreu has been the best by a decent margin. And then he has to be taken with a grain of salt because Abreu has played professionally in Cuba before, and older than many 4th year players. So you have players like Jon Singleton getting playing time on terrible teams even though they own sub-.650 OPS’s.

In the NL? Only Billy Hamilton and his .648 OPS are qualified in the rookie category, which means essentially that Jacob deGrom and his 140 innings will win the NL ROY. It’s a down year for young hitting as almost all of the rookies are struggling.

Just for reference, here’s the notable top 100 prospects that garnered playing time this season and their OPS values:

Gregory Polanco: .653

Oscar Taveras .600

Michael Choice .570

Jon Singleton .620

Billy Hamilton .648

Yikes, right? I tweeted about this exact scenario on August 25th and every single one of these players either regressed further, or raised their values by minuscule measurements (5-10 points). And with the rate that pitching is developing these days, it could be expected that young hitters who generally take awhile to mature would struggle.

Especially if those hitters are striking out 26.9% of the time in AAA.

If that number feels specific, it’s cause it is. 26.9% is the rate at which super-prospect Joc Pederson struck out at AAA.

Lets begin with a few caveats, Joc is going to strike out a lot at the big league level regardless of how he’s playing. And honestly? That’s a good thing. Power hitters generally hit for power because they swing at a lot of balls and try to make good contact. When they don’t connect, they strike out. Joc had a .279 ISO (slugging minus batting average) value, so it was perfectly fine that he was striking out so often, especially when he’s hitting 33 home runs.

But see there’s where things get murky. Pederson essentially played in Coors field every home game, and Arlington every away game. The PCL is such a hitter friendly league it’s not funny. Numbers as a whole need to be taken with a grain of salt, and are nearly irrelevant when judging a player.

Another thing to keep in mind is the sample of plate appearances we have to work with at the major league level. 32 plate appearances is simply not enough to make a judgment of a player’s talent level, especially when most of those have come in a pinch hit environment and Pederson hasn’t started many games at all.

Final caveat: Pederson has had an advanced feel of the strike zone. He’s gotten himself in a 3 ball count a total of 19 times out of 32 AB’s (59.4% of the time), which would explain the 25.0% walk percentage. His swinging strike percentage sits at 10.4%, which over a full season would put him in the vicinity of Mike Napoli, Ryan Braun, Leonys Martin, and Miguel Cabrera. 3 of which have kept their K%’s at or below 20.0%. The eye test says that he’s patient, and probably being overly patient given the strikeouts recently where he’s watched a meatball sail past him because he was patient on 2-2 or 3-2, but anyways he has a .355 OBP for crying out loud, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

But the red flags are there. The 3.4% bump in strikeout % is scary. The fact that he has 3 hits, none for extra bases is scary. The fact that he’s hitting ground balls like Brandon Moss and Lucas Duda, but his batted ball distance isn’t anywhere near those two. These aren’t things that you can brush off, except hope that with experience, he figures out major league pitching.

And this is the thing that needs to be said over. and over. and over. and over again. Joc Pederson should never have been expected to take somebody’s job in 2014. Can he be a good player? Is he a better player than I thought he was when he came up? Are there good signs in the batted ball and plate discipline measurements? Absolutely. Could he have been expected to suddenly come up and be a better Carl Crawford or Matt Kemp? Could he have been expected to recreate 2013 Yasiel Puig? Most certainly not.

Any one of the non-Jose Abreu rookies makes me appreciate the legendary of Puig so much more, because that’s something that may never happen again, rookie comes up and hits like a prime-Manny Ramirez? Insane, but Puig did it, and Joc isn’t .

Could he have been expected to be a better Crawford? Well Joc’s at least Crawford’s equal in terms of defense, but Carl’s one of the best baserunners in the game, still, and has been underrated criminally by me, while I don’t think his offensive production is sustainable (I’ll go into that in a later post), could he have been expected to post a .336 weighted On Base Average? Only 19 rookies in the past 5 seasons have eclipsed that mark with more than 400 plate appearances. I’ll go ahead and say no.

Well okay, but he could have been better than Matt Kemp, rather easily, right?

Lets just say that I’m very happy that Matt Kemp was given time to become the MVP caliber offensive talent that he is. He is hitting for power, a decent average, is not a trainwreck defensively in right field, and is showing to be a top 15 offensive force in the game again. That’s something I feel comfortable saying that Pederson will never reach. Kemp bottomed out at around a 110 wRC+ which is 10% above league average. That’s a figure that would be difficult for Joc to reach in the first few seasons, mainly due to his strikeout concerns.

I have detailed why Joc should be productive, why Pederson will be a good contributor to a force in the west for years to come. But what am I preaching?


Patience that Pederson will reach a place where he’s a good offensive talent and a strong defensive player. And in this scenario, patience is important, because when you are the first highly touted rookie position player to make his debut as a Dodger since Yasiel Puig, the world is going to be expected of you. He was never going to take Crawford’s job or Kemp’s job, or god forbid, Puig’s job because he’s just not at that level quite yet. Just be content that he’s learning and the outfield scenario is taken care of for the time being. Because relying on Joc for 400+ plate appearances is a scary thought for the Dodgers considering how much of an unfinished product he is right now.