Joc Pederson’s Amazing April and Other Rookie First Months
Joc Pederson‘s April was a grand show filled with big hits and defensive gems. Not since the likes of Yasiel Puig, who was incredible in June of 2013 when he hit the big leagues, have I seen another Dodger rookie burst on to the scene and make a name for himself amongst top rookies in baseball. Joc Pederson may not be the next Joe DiMaggio, who was 21-years old when he made his debut with the Yankees back in 1936 and hit .381/.400/.659 with 4 homeruns and just 8 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances in May, but Joc should be manning the Dodgers outfield for many years to come. The Dodger center fielder did have 53 less plate appearances than Joltin’ Joe in his first full month in the majors, but I can’t help but draw comparisons between the two who both hailed from Northern California.
Table by: Stacie Wheeler Data used: BaseballReference.com
Joc Pederson has a long go before we can call him the next Joe DiMaggio, but his impressive April has made himself a household name amongst Dodger fans and baseball fans alike. The four homeruns, athletic catches in the outfield and his teasing speed (he only had the opportunity to attempt to steal a few times when not crushing homeruns left and right in April), all made me forget about Matt Kemp and look to a very sunny forecast for the Dodgers with youth being at the forefront of this new look club. Corey Seager may be even better than Joc, and then there is Julio Urias behind him.
Joc Pederson’s amazing April had me thinking and comparing his first month numbers to some Dodger Rookie of the Year award winners as well as top young players who were touted rookies in their first year in the majors.
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The first thing I realized was that Yasiel Puig’s first month in the majors-June 2013-was historically magical. Puig hit 3 more homeruns than Joc did in his first month, and he struck out less than Joc in 30 more plate appearances. Joc did walk more than four times than Puig did in that inaugural month. Both players became fan favorites very quickly, but Yasiel Puig’s June of 2013 was the special spark which turned the team around and ignited that summer of love when they went on the unforgettable winning spree.
Joc’s September cup of coffee in 2014 wasn’t really an accurate reflection of his true potential. Over 38 plate appearances, Joc only managed 4 hits with 9 strikeouts and no walks. Perhaps those 18 games allowed Joc to make adjustments and come back even more poised to make a impact in Spring Training after working in the Dominican Winter League (where he struggled at times). He indeed made an impact during his time at Camelback Ranch, and Joc broke with the team as the Opening Day center fielder.
Speaking of center field, let’s take a look at one of the top players of the game and his first full month in the majors. Mike Trout, who is only a few months older than Pederson, didn’t really have a strong start in the first three months he played in 2011. It wasn’t until May, 2012 when Trouty really got things started. The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year had a strong start to his record rookie season, and he also stole eight bases in that month for the Angels as well.
Then there was perhaps one of the most hyped up rookie debuts of then 19-year old outfielder Bryce Harper. Like Joc, Harper is a dynamic young player who made history within his first full month in the majors. On May 6, 2012, Harper was hit by a pitch in the first inning by Cole Hamels (who was later suspended for five days for the intentional beaning), and thereafter stole home making him the first teenager to steal home since 1964.
Eight days later, Harper hit his first Major League homerun against Tim Stauffer of the Padres, and he became the youngest player to hit a homerun at the big league level since Adrian Beltre in 1998 who was also 19-years old.
Another remarkable Dodger rookie was none other than Raul Mondesi, who was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1994. Mondesi drove in the same number of runs (13) in his first big month as Joc, but Mondesi collected an incredible 22 doubles in that month. Mondesi only walked once in those 22 games.
If it wasn’t for fellow Cuban Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig would have surely won Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 (he came in second place). Puig’s first month still astounds me when I think back to that first game and how he showed off his cannon arm right away which made my head spin. Watching Joc’s first month as the Dodgers starting center fielder just makes me that much more excited about this talent filled team not only for the prospect of finally reaching the World Series this season, but it also reflects the aspirations of the new front office and their progression toward a homegrown Dodger legacy.
There has been 16 Dodger players who have won the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, and Joc Pederson is now making his case to be number 17. Even though Puig’s first month on the scene was historic and astonishing, Joc’s April was equally fun to watch.
While successful full months can be a sign of what is to come, there is still a long season ahead especially for a rookie like Joc. Another comparison should be made after the first half and again at the end of the season between these impressive then-and-now rookies. To start off with a bang is one thing, but to stay consistently productive throughout his entire season is what the Dodgers are hoping Joc can do. As of right now, the future sure looks promisingly bright.
Oh, there’s also this guy Alex Guerrero who was named National League Rookie of the Month for April. The 28-year old “rookie” hit .423/.429/1.077 with 5 homeruns and 13 RBI in 28 plate appearances in April. Yimi Garcia, the Dodgers rookie reliever, isn’t too shabby either with a 2-0 record, 0.77 ERA and 19 strikeouts to 3 walks in 11 2/3 innings in April.
Youth springs eternal with the Dodgers in 2015 and beyond, and Joc Pederson may just be the first of another string of Dodger Rookie of the Year winners.