Joc Pederson, Outfielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 season (Minors): 121 G, 445 AB, .303 BA, 33 HR, 78 RBI, 30 SB, 1.017 OPS
2014 season (Majors): 18 G, 28 AB, .143 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, .494 OPS
An 11th-round Draft choice by the Dodgers out of high school, Los Angeles knew it was taking a risk by drafting Joc Pederson, as he had pretty high bonus demands and had already committed to play baseball at USC. But the Dodgers were OK with the risk that late, and OK with giving him a hefty bonus, and now five years later it looks as though it’s all going to pay off.
The Dodgers were confident enough in Pederson’s readiness entering 2015 to trade Matt Kemp, clearing space for the 22-year-old in center field. He still had to win the job in a spring competition with Andre Ethier, and that’s exactly what he did by not only playing well defensively, but also leading the club with six homers and 13 RBIs. He also struck out 15 times, and the K’s are going to come, but there are enough positives that Los Angeles is ready to hand him the job.
Pederson has all the tools you want in a star center fielder, with 25-homer, 30-steal potential in the bigs. Despite consistently showing off that power and speed in the Minors, he had been a bit uneven leading up to last year. But in 121 games for Triple-A Albuquerque last season, Pederson had a .303/.435/.582 slash line with 33 homers and 30 steals. His fantastic season was enough to get him a September callup, but he didn’t get enough playing time to get in any kind of rhythm against Major League pitching.
Scouts are mixed as to how his power will translate in the Majors, and most expect to see his 30-plus homer potential in the Minors drop down to 20-25. Steamer projections have him hitting 17 blasts with 14 steals in just 110 games for the Dodgers this year, indicating that 20-20 isn’t out of the question with a full season as a rookie. Fangraphs’ Depth Chart projections in fact have him hitting 21 homers and stealing 19 bases in 137 games — one of just seven players they project to reach the 20-15 mark this year.
As mentioned before, Pederson is going to strike out, but that may not mean much in the big picture considering how well he gets on base. He had a .405 OBP in five Minor League seasons and, despite getting just four hits in 28 at-bats (.143) while striking out 11 times during his callup last year, he still managed to draw nine walks, putting his OBP at .351. With power, speed, a discerning eye at the plate, a strong glove and a starting job locked up, Pederson is primed to be one of the most exciting young players to watch in baseball this year.