Baseball America recently ranked Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson third on their Top 20 Rookies list. It’s been awhile since the Dodgers had such a highly touted rookie position player to watch since the likes of Matt Kemp back in 2006. The last Dodger Rookie of the Year recipient was Todd Hollandsworth who collected the honor in 1996. The Dodgers had an amazing run of rookies, and five Dodgers won the award in a row (Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo and Hollandsworth). Could 2015 bring another Rookie of the Year award to the franchise with outfielder Joc Pederson?
This year there are quite a few position players to keep your eye on in the rookie class including third baseman Kris Bryant of the Cubs (ranked No. 1 by Baseball America) and right fielder Jorge Soler also of the Cubs (Soler is ranked No. 2 on the same list). Dodger outfielder Joc Pederson rounds out the top three rookies, and Pederson’s successful Spring perhaps is giving us a glimpse into an equally productive rookie season as the Dodgers starting center fielder.
Even though I still hold true to my feelings regarding Yasiel Puig‘s incredible talents in the outfield, Pederson has certainly earned a spot on the Opening Day roster after his so-called audition this Spring.
Joc Pederson taking batting practice during Spring Training 2015. Photo: Stacie Wheeler
Joc’s Spring line is impressive: .472/.513/.833 with 3 homeruns, 8 RBI, 8 strikeouts and 3 walks through 15 games and 39 plate appearances.
The young outfielder, who will turn just 23-years old in April, has certainly proven that he has what it takes to at least open the season as the starting center fielder for the Dodgers. Should he falter or slump during his rookie season, the Dodgers won’t be short-handed with Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Chris Heisey available to play center field if necessary.
Even though Pederson struggled briefly during his September call up last season (4 hits in 28 at bats), the toolsy outfielder certainly has made us forget that bump in the road with his offensive accomplishments at the plate this Spring, his solid defense in center field (although his arm still is weaker than Puig’s) and his surprising speed on the base paths. Even though Joc has yet to steal his first major league base (I’m looking forward to that moment), he has swiped two bases so far this Spring and he stole 30 bases in triple-A last year.
Expectations are high for Joc, but it looks like he is up for the challenge. He has proven himself at every level of the minor league system, and he has been a top performer during Spring Training so far for the Dodgers. The only hurdle left for Joc is to convert his success to the major league level on a consistent basis. We can anticipate some growing pains, and his propensity to strikeout has always been a concern, but Joc’s moment to shine is now.
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While Corey Seager is a focused and calm prospect (I really love his patience at the plate), Joc is more outwardly confident in his playing style. You could describe him as a bit cocky, but you almost have to be convinced of one’s talent if you look to be successful as such a high level of play. With his hand on Mark McGwire‘s shoulder during batting cage workouts during Spring Training, I could see that Joc is very self-assured and ready for the challenges ahead for him in his rookie season.
The good news is that the Dodgers will not have to worry about who will man center field come Opening Day after the sizzling hot Spring Joc Pederson has played, but other concerns are shifted to the Dodgers rotation and the loss of Hyun-jin Ryu along with the mishmash of relief pitchers who will need to fill in for the disabled Kenley Jansen.
Could the Dodgers have another Rookie of the Year to add to their illustrious list of past ROYs with Joc Pederson? If his Spring Training showing is any indication of what is to come for Joc Pederson in 2015, then yes, he is in the running.