Maybe Joc Should Start Next Year In AAA

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Joc, in AAA again? Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Joc Pederson. He’s good! Lets just remind you on how good he is before much defaming occurs. Pederson is the Dodgers best outfield prospect since Yasiel Puig, and has one of the two best floor/upside combinations in the entire Dodger farm system. Pederson was drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2010 baseball draft, and has blossomed into the best outfield draftee the Dodgers have truly drafted and developed since probably Matt Kemp.

Joc’s future is bright, he’ll be given every opportunity to win a starting job next season and begin restoring the credibility of the otherwise spotty domestic scouting department that was given a complete makeover this offseason. With any luck, Pederson will start next season in Oklahoma City, the new Dodgers AAA affiliate, and work his way up to the big leagues.

I can hear it, Joc basically did all of that last season. He was the first player in modern AAA history basically to go 30/30, while hitting .303/.435/.582 and being the best major league CF option in the organization. And you know why nobody goes 30/30 in the minor leagues, ever? Because players good enough to smack 30 dingers and swipe 30 stolen bases are called by their generally normal organizations.

Well, by the time that Pederson hit that prestigious mark, the minor league season had ended, and the Dodgers only had one option, which was to hand him a roster spot on the big league team.

Joc came up with much fanfare. The guy that we thought we were gonna see when Kemp was struggling early on. The guy we thought we were gonna see when Kemp couldn’t defend in L or CF.. The guy we thought we were gonna see when Kemp was gonna get traded. The guy we though we were gonna see when Crawford couldn’t hit at all. The guy we thought we were gonna see when Ethier took the entire season off, basically. And then he came up, and there were actual rumblings that Joc Pederson was going to supplant Yasiel Puig.

Well, remember that earlier line of .303/.435/.582? I’m not saying that it was completely Albuquerque inflated but, i’m also not exactly calling Tim Federowicz‘s .328/.383/.555 line genuine without the help of some Albuquerque magic

The PCL in general is a pretty extreme hitters league, but when you add in the fact that Albuquerque has a 122 park factor for Runs, a 111 park factor for hits, a 116 park factor for doubles, and a 112 park factor for home runs (these stats make it one of the most hitter friendly environments in the minor leagues), those stats compiled are pretty meaningless.

This isn’t even mentioning the fact that the Dodgers were burned on a couple of players before who relied on the Albuquerque fairies to inflate their stat lines. Noted cannibal Miguel Olivo hit .309/.356/.585 despite not walking, and having years of futility on his resume was brought up, then proceeded to hit .217/.240/.304. The aforementioned Tim Federowicz hit .328/.383/.555 in the launching pad known as New Mexio and could only muster up a .113/.158/.197 on the big league team.

Then Joc Pederson, who had pretty much had the best regular season the PCL has seen in decades, and he only hit .143/.351/.143 up in the big leagues. Was it a small sample that we’re drawing from? Incredibly (38 plate appearances). Is it enough to make a judgement on him as a player? Not completely, but look at these strikeout numbers since he got out of rookie ball:

2011 Low-A- 15.0%

2012 High-A- 16.2%

2013 AA- 22.0%

2014- AAA 26.9%

2014- Dodgers  28.9%

That’s a steady escalation of strikeouts as Joc has reached more advanced competition. Still we knew that Joc was going to strike outFranklin Stubbs, his AAA hitting coach knows this

"He’s going to strike out — that’s part of his game — but he’s also going to hit some home runs, also going to get some good at-bats, going to run the bases good."

And that’s fine, as long as you’re doing all of those other things that Stubbs said, run the bases well, give good AB’s, and hit home runs, will he do that? More than likely. But lets detail his contact struggles to a greater degree by starting out with the fact that Joc struck out 2% more often than he did in Albuquerque. While he only swung and missed 10.8% of the time (equivalent to Aramis Ramirez who owns a 14.1 K%), he had trouble making contact on pitches thrown inside the strike zone, only a 77.8% contact percentage on such pitches, which would rank inbetween noted strikeout aficionados Justin Upton/Adam Dunn and Chris Carter. Going on, his total contact percentage lies almost equivalent to new gazillionaire Giancarlo Stanton (69.5% vs 69.6%), but saying Joc has anywhere near the power Stanton has to be able to get away with it, is a losing proposition.

Point is, that while he is very selective at the plate, sometimes far too selective. I mean just look at this damn plate appearance versus

Rafael Soriano

in his debut

He walked 18.1% of the time in AAA, and 23.7% of the time on the major league team, so it’s not really like Matt Kemp when he first came up, completely overmatched at the plate.

But when he does swing, it appears that he has a contact issue in the brief glimpse we saw, maybe Joc figures it out by April next season and this post is rendered obsolete. That could certainly happen, but it’s more likely that it doesn’t. I just don’t see the downside of letting him play  in AAA until he figures out the whole plate discipline/making contact further. The Oklahoma City Redbirds (?) are not 50,000 (5000) feet above sea level, they are at an altitude level where Nick Buss isn’t going to make a minor league all star team solely because he plays half of his games in the launching pad known as New Mexico. While of course, balls go further in high altitude environments when they are hit. Breaking balls don’t break as much (Zach Lee is the prime example of this), leading to more mistakes, leading to more extra base hits and home run, it benefits the hitters much more than just “dry air=dingers”.

Context neutral stats underrate the “coors effect” otherwise known as the “altitude effect”, so his 164 wRC+ is a bit misleading, sostoring Joc in Oklahoma City, letting him work out his plate discipline issues/contact, while having 2 of Andre Ethier/Matt Kemp/Carl Crawford, along with Yasiel Puig and SVS as the remaining left handed hitter’s platoon partner on the major league team is somewhat of an enviable position to be in.

Joc is still a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. His floor is that of a player who can drive the ball a long ways, play good defense at an up the middle position, and steal bases, which is a really valuable player. If he hits for average, then he has a chance to be a star, let him try to figure it out and force a roster spot from AAA, people will pay more attention if Joc hits anywhere close to what he did last season, only except this time, he’s not in a ballpark in the sky.

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