On Saturday, Los Angeles Dodgers top prospect Joc Pederson accomplished something that hadn’t been done in 80 years in the Pacific Coast League.
Pederson stole his 30th base of the season for the Albuquerque Isotopes, making him the first PCL player since 1934 to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs.
Most Dodger fans are quite aware of the potential of Pederson. If the Dodgers didn’t have an abundance of highly paid outfielders, Pederson would undoubtably have a spot somewhere in the Dodgers outfield by now. Unfortunately for Joc, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford exist and are paid nearly $20 million a year each. With them on the roster, head coach Don Mattingly will have a hard time finding playing time for the 22-year old Pederson, who still has yet to see the majors in a regular season game.
That time may soon be coming, according to ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowden_ESPN) August 17, 2014
When the rosters expand in September, Pederson is expected to be in the Dodgers dugout. PCL play will be over, so it makes sense for him to get some run in the Dodgers outfield. However, the outfield with Crawford in left, Yasiel Puig in center and Matt Kemp in right seems to be working.
Crawford is often seen as the weak link in the outfield, but since August 9 has raised his batting average from .234 to .267. Most of his career numbers indicate that the more Crawford plays, the better he performs. Weird.
Andre Ethier had been quiet about his recent exile from the Dodgers outfield, but has expressed concern with his role moving forward. Ethier has mainly been used as a pinch hitter and has had a pretty terrible season overall. He’s a fan favorite, especially among the ladies, but is clearly the worst of the Dodger’s outfield candidates at this point. However, Ethier has been working at first base recently, and could provide a day off to Adrian Gonzalez.
Scott Van Slyke is another outfield candidate, and has essentially become the third outfielder when the Dodgers are facing a lefty pitcher. SVS has tremendous power and plays a solid defensive outfield, but his value comes from his ability against lefty pitching. His average is .267 against lefties, but he boasts a .406 OBP and has hit seven of his nine home runs against southpaws. SVS also has spelled Gonzalez at first, which adds even more value.
Ethier and Crawford have proven that they struggle against left handed pitching. Pederson, who is also left handed, had struggled against lefties in the past. However, this season in AAA Pederson is hitting .303 against lefties, which is better than his .301 average against righties. His slugging percentage is also higher against lefties, and he has only hit four more home runs against righties, despite having 150 more plate appearances.
The main concern with Pederson is his high strikeout rate. Kemp suffered from this, as has Puig. It seems like every time they step to the plate, they’re either going to do something special or they’re going to strike out. Pederson has struck out 139 times in 519 plate appearances, which is about 25 percent of the time. Not ideal, but like Puig and Kemp, Pederson has a ton of room to improve.
If Colletti sticks to his word, Pederson’s reign may come. Pederson has been heralded as the best defensive outfielder in the Dodgers organization, making him a prime candidate for center field. Puig has looked comfortable in center, despite defensive metrics saying that he is an average-below average defensive center fielder. Kemp has looked comfortable in right, despite defensive metrics blah blah blah. Metrics hate the Dodgers, but both Puig and Kemp pass my eye test. Kemp was a borderline disaster in left field, and wasting Puig’s tremendous arm in left field would be a sin. Maybe with an offseason to practice, Kemp can become slightly less bad in left, moving Puig back to right and having Pederson in center. This would probably be the best defensive outfield for the Dodgers, but as recent games will tell you, Don Mattingly and I disagree on a lot of things.
Prospects are always risky to project. Pederson can do Puiglike things and give the Dodgers arguably the most talented outfield in baseball, or he can come up and be the next Billy Ashley, a former Dodgers prospect who showed great power in the minors and retired after seven big league seasons and 28 career home runs.
For Dodger fans, hopefully Pederson will be at worst a solid player for the next five years. Between him and Corey Seager, the Dodgers have a few prospects that look like sure things and future all stars. Only time will tell.