Saturday, May 2, 2015
Young Joc, Big Production
How much fun is it watching Joc Pederson right now?
The answer is: A LOT. After watching him hit a grand slam and make a terrific catch on Friday night in the Dodgers' easy 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks, it's obvious LA has a future star on its hands.
And the "future" looks like it'll happen now.
As Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com pointed out, Pederson is doing to the Dodgers what Yasiel Puig did in 2013. The only difference is that Pederson is doing it a couple of months sooner, as Puig was called up in June, while Pederson started the season in center.
So far, it looks like the Dodgers' brass has handled his arrival to LA perfectly. They didn't rush him through the system, even when it was obvious that his skills were way above the minor league level. He got his feet wet last September, and even endured some good-natured rookie hazing when he had to get his teammates coffee dressed in full uniform. He's still getting the business, as he entered each at-bat on Friday to a different boy band like Hanson. Wow!
During his appearance last September, he got 28 at-bats... and collected a measly four hits (all singles). He did take nine walks, so he at least showed an ability to get on base with a good eye. But he learned that the transition to the Big Leagues wasn't going to be all fine and dandy for the Pacific Coast League MVP.
And you know what? That small blip on the radar turned out to be a great thing. It gave Pederson plenty of motivation to improve his game for 2015, as there was no way he wanted to accept starting the season in Triple-A again, especially with Matt Kemp now out of the picture. Say what you want about Spring Training, but it was very important for him, and he responded by hitting .338 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 26 games. Point proven.
Now Pederson is on the same level as Puig as "guys who should never come out of the starting lineup" (save for an occasional day off to rest). He's hitting .300 with five doubles, five homers, 14 RBIs, and one stolen base. He's right up there with the big boys of Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick for team leader in many offensive categories.
He's also the new leadoff hitter, and that's worked out beautifully through two games. Ideally, someone else will take over that role at some point, allowing him to drop down in the order to drive in more runs. But as long as he has a .463 OBP, there's no need to switch it now.
We could be watching this season's Rookie of the Year in action, getting huge hits and tracking down every ball in center along the way. Let's enjoy the ride.