Prospect Report: Is Joc Pederson No Slam Dunk To Perform?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

On the surface it would appear Pederson brings the entire skill set to the table. In 2013 he spent the year at Double-A, hitting .278 with 22 HR and 32 SB. This year, joining the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in the PCL, he’s opened the season hitting .324 with 17 HR and 17 SB over 244 AB. Only the Dodgers crowded outfield should be what’s holding him back…

That’s not entirely the case. Entering the year there were concerns that he could be nothing more than a platoon player given the following split from 2013:

  • vs. RHP – .316/.420/.609
  • vs. LHP – .200/.299/.269

He simply didn’t hit the ball with as much authority against southpaws, with a line drive split of 18.3%/12.9%. Thus far he has seemed to solve that problem though:

  • vs. RHP – .342/.463/.632
  • vs. LHP – .292/.388/.551

Sure, he’s enjoying some luck (.396 BABIP against lefties), but his line drive rate is up against them (17.0%). If he can simply keep doing what he’s doing against them he would be fine.

So there are no other obstacles, right? Unfortunately Pederson has created a new problem for himself as he’s moved up the levels. While strikeouts have never been an issue before (22.0% in 2013), they have exploded this season:

  • April – 24.4%
  • May – 30.5%
  • June – 38.5%

Those are scary numbers, and they unfortunately are getting worse not better. Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 actually touched on a potential issue prior to the season (click here for his full top 10 Dodgers prospect list):

“The 6-foot-1, 185 pound left-hander has premium bat speed that he combines with leverage to profile with above-average future power. He has an aggressive approach at the plate but did manage a 74% contact rate to complement his 16% walk rate.”

Against more polished pitchers with the ability to take advantage of his aggressiveness, he is clearly having problems making consistent contact. He’s obviously still produced, but his locale and a bit of luck are helping him along.

It’s a potential major red flag, because in the Major Leagues it easily could cost him an opportunity to hit for a strong average. With his power and speed it’s not going to make him unusable by any stretch, but could he prove to be more Drew Stubbs than five-tool player?

Obviously Pederson can (and should) be able to adjust. It’s something he may need to correct before reaching the Majors, however.

Just to add to the equation, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently reported (click here for the article):

“The team also wants to see him mature. Pederson, 22, has failed to run out groundballs on multiple occasions.”

Time will tell, but that’s another significant concern.

While the Dodgers outfield is crowded, there is a need for him in centerfield. While he may not be the best center fielder in the world, he’s better than the likes of Andre Ethier. Prior to the season Baseball America said:

“He’s not a burner, but he did a better job improving his routes and jumps in center field this season with a solid-average arm. He’s solid defensively in center field but could slide over to a corner depending on which outfielders the Dodgershold on to from their current surplus.”

While we all want to see Pederson reach the Majors, there are definitely things that need to be improved/changed before he arrives. While he could fill a major need in centerfield, if he’s going to hit .250 or worse the Dodgers may not want that. Why recall him if you believe he’s destined to fail when he could make adjustments at Triple-A?

When he arrives, the Dodgers will believe that he’s primed to produce immediately and that’s a good thing. Depending on your format you will need to stay patient (like LA is). In the long run it will prove worth it.

Sources – Minor League Central, Fox Sports, Baseball America, Prospect 361

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