What’s Realistic For Joc Pederson In 2015?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s projection season! Right after the Holidays wrap up, there isn’t much to do other than wait for Spring Training, and think of the best possible scenarios for the team. 5 weeks from today, Joc Pederson is going to partake in the “center field battle” where he, Andre Ethier -if still on the team-, Chris Heisey, and. uh. Enrique Hernandez (?) are going to be fighting for the last open spot in the OF.

Hernandez is probably a token selection, he’s more likely to be fighting for a spot on the bench rather than be looked at as a starting CF option. Besides, there’s a clear favorite in that bunch and it’s not the fringy platoon CF. It’s the consensus top 20 prospect, Joc Pederson. Baseball Prospectus held a chat last week regarding the list they sent out recently, and this is what they had to say about Pederson

[Pederson] was rated third for a second consecutive year, projected realistically as an above-average regular going forward, with potential to be a first-division regular and an All-Star

It’s difficult to see a situation where the team traded Matt Kemp to put Yasiel Puig back in his best position and is okay with the possibility that Andre Ethier might outperform Pederson in Spring Training and win the CF job. If the team has put a premium on defense, then slotting Ethier in one of the OF positions would seem like a step back, so i’m guessing that it’s not a matter of who will win the CF job, it’s how well Joc is going to perform against major league pitching.

Last week the ZIPS projections for the Dodgers were released and that means we have 3 complete projection systems to look at regarding a player: Bill James, Steamer, and ZIPS. They aren’t perfect for prospects (sometimes they get very confused), but it gives us some numbers to look at.
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All of those numbers seem to think he’s either an average regular, or an above average regular, Steamer has him at 2.2 fWAR, ZiPS has him at 3.3 zWAR, Bill James would have him somewhere around 25 runs above the offensive average and worth at least 5 wins above replacement.

So everybody loves Joc Pederson, except Dodger fans, who witnessed his first cup of coffee in the major leagues and we’re largely underwhelmed. Fans were desperately clamoring for him during the summer months, but his 4-28 performance left a lot to be desired. The 11 strikeouts, the fact that none of his hits went for extra bases, him only scoring one run. It was a really small sample size but he didn’t exactly look ready, so maybe the offseason is a welcome time for him to work on his contact skills or something.

It’s all irrelevant because everybody that matters seems to believe in him starting the season in CF even if they aren’t saying so. I guess what we should be asking is how he is going to fare next year, and that’s a tricky question, probably because of the history behind rookie CF’s.

Steamer, ZiPS, and James all project Joc to club 20 home runs, and whether that’s a result of him hitting 30+ home runs in the PCL is up for debate. However, in the expansion era (1961-), only 14 rookie CF’s have hit 20 home runs, those names are Jimmie Hall, Chris Young, Mike Trout, Willie Montanez, Preston Wilson, Ken Hunt, Ruppert Jones, Bryce Harper, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Darwin, Tommy Agee, Fred Lynn, Ellis Burks, and Larry Hisle. But lets narrow it down and look at rookie CF’s who have compiled 19 stolen bases -Steamer ZiPS and James all think he will reach that number of SB’s-.  The list of rookie CF’s who compiled 20/19 seasons reads: Chris Young, Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, and Tommie Agee.

It’s an exclusive list and one that would appear to be very difficult to reach, however, lets broaden the search. Lets look all OF’s (LF’s,CF’s,RF) since 1961, since CF has historically been a glove first position, the club becomes less exclusive, but not all that much. The list of all 20 home runs/ 19 stolen bases rookie OF’s since 1961 are Young, Trout, Beltran, Agee, Daryll Strawberry, Marty Cordova, Devon White, Mitchell Page, and Ellis Burks.

Only 9 guys! I mean it’s not impossible, but it would be historically significant if he hit the 20/19 number in his first season. Not to mention that Joc wasn’t all that efficient last season in his basestealing opportunities. Pederson had a 30-13 stolen base ratio in AAA, granted, many of those CS’s came in his chase for the first 30-30 season in modern PCL history, but it was high before his chase.

I feel like projection systems can overrate guys who play in high octane offensive environments and put up insane numbers. I mean sabermetrics has had a hard time with park factors before, so even if you are adjusting for Albuquerque there is still potential.

20 home runs isn’t impossible but i’d take the under on the stolen base projections. I side with Steamer on Pederson, a projection of .225/.318/.387 seems doable for Joc.

I doubt he’s going to be a savior, but JP Hoornstra (Los Angeles Daily News beat writer for the Dodgers) recently held an AMA on Reddit and this is what he said about Joc

Zaidi has already said that Pederson would not be expected to hit very high in his lineup if he’s the Opening Day center fielder. In a way, it’s an ideal situation. He doesn’t have to anchor the middle of the lineup (like Jose Abreu) or the top (like Billy Hamilton). So he might not be the NL rookie of the year, but he can be an above average 7-8 hitter and a better defensive center fielder than anyone else on the 40-man roster. Don’t be disappointed if that’s “all” Joc Pederson is in 2015.

Steamer’s projection of a .705 OPS would be an above average 7-8 hitter, and I think that’s what we’ll see in 2015 from the likely Opening Day CF.