The Dodgers have been known for churning out some talented young players in recent seasons such as Corey Seager and Julio Urias. However, there is one player that people seem to forget was once a prized Dodgers’ prospect who has already left a mark on the team.
Joc Pederson was once a top rated prospect within the Dodgers’ organization but some people seem to forget that because he has been somewhat overshadowed by an emerging superstar in Corey Seager and future ace Julio Urias. When all three were prospects, they were the ones grouped together to make up the Dodgers’ upper-tier prospects.
Joc has had his struggles, primarily in the second-half of his rookie year (2015), but he has definitely shown the ability to turn into a true star player. One thing that can’t be disputed though is the improvement he made from his rookie year to his sophomore season.
His second-half slump in 2015 caused his numbers to bottom out at .210/.346/.417 (the OBP was still great) but he did hit 26 home runs in 485 at-bats. His numbers improved to .246/.352/.495 in 2016, while his OPS increased by 84 points. He did hit one less home run, but he also had 74 less at-bats. His power numbers improved, as did his patience at the plate. Oh and he also increased his batting average by 36 points so no matter which way you look at it, he took a step forward.
There’s a reason the young center fielder was an NL All-Star as a rookie; he has that kind of ability. He has some serious pop, a terrific batting eye, and can make some tremendous defensive plays at a premium defensive position. Before he went down with a shoulder injury last season, he had a solid .804 OPS in 75 games. He was playing better but the missed time interrupted his season. However, he came back even stronger after the injury. In the 62 games after he returned, he hit 12 home runs and had an elite OPS of .900.
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That is a really promising sign and evident that he may be ready to take the next step. Keep in mind, he’s only played two full seasons and will only turn 25 next month, so he still has lots of time to grow.
Other promising signs were also on display at the plate. His strikeout rate dropped by almost 4 percent while his contact rate jumped by almost 10 percent. Although his outside-the-zone swinging rate increased by 1.0 percent, his contact outside the zone jumped up by 12 percent. You don’t want him to increase his chasing habit, but at least he made the most of it. He is never going to be a contact hitter or hit for high average and will strike out his fair share, but he has definitely shown signs of improvement in those particular areas.
We also can’t ignore his defense in center field, a premium defensive position. The advanced metrics don’t like him as much as the eye test does. A lot of people see a solid, above-average defender with the capability of making Gold Glove caliber plays. He’s not blazing fast but has some good speed and is a good route-runner who will only get better as he gets more experience. This will only add to his value to the Dodgers.
One thing that hasn’t carried over to the majors however, is his speed on the base-paths. He had seasons in the minors where he’d stolen 31, 30, and 26 (twice) bases. He only has 10 in his 306 games as a Dodger however. I don’t expect him to ever be a guy that can steal over 30 bases in a season, but around 15 in 2017 should not be out of the question. I think the coaching staff will try to take more advantage of his base-running ability.
Don’t expect him to truly breakout this season (although it would be nice) but rather continue along his developmental curve and take the next step up on the figurative developmental ladder, en route to ultimately reaching his potential. He should improve, even if it is just incrementally. I can see him slashing around .257/.355/.503 and reaching the 30 home run plateau exactly.
He is going to be an important part to a team with sky-high expectations. If he can stay healthy and continue on the trend he is on right now, he will make a potentially dangerous Dodger offense even more so. Here’s to him exceeding mine and everybody else’s expectations.