The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
Is Joc Pederson really going to be the outfielder of the future?
For those of you that may be hideously uninformed, or for those of you that have actual lives and don’t have time to pay attention to this type of stuff, Joc Pederson is the Dodgers’s top position prospect in their minor league system. At 6’1″ and 185 lbs, Pederson is supposedly a “five tool” player, meaning there’s just about nothing he can’t do.
Last year in Double-A, the almost 22 year-old hit .278 with a .878 OPS, 22 homers, 31 stolen bases in 519 plate appearances. With 78 walks (but 114 strikeouts), Pederson at least has the ability to be an on-base machine in the mold of Shin-Soo Choo with a rare combination of speed and power. No, he’s not going to be the National League version of Mike Trout or anything, but he could very well be a borderline All-Star. Like any 22 year-old prospect, he could be the outfielder of the future, but he’ll need to prove himself for at least another half year in Double-A and then perhaps for a bit longer in Triple-A. From what little I’ve seen in Pederson throughout training camp, he’s still got fairly large holes in his swing that have been easily exploited by big league pitching. Athletically, I don’t have much doubt he could handle himself in the field–it’s really all about his bat at this point.
As for when that “future” would be, the Dodgers have plenty of time, which may be the luxury and limitation of having four starting outfielders on the Major League roster. As I detailed yesterday, the team has four players who are all in their own ways, untradeable, as well as far from sure bets from being effective players this season. The energetic young spark plug Yassiel Puig is a player in the very same mold as Pederson, but obviously proven on the Major League level. However, like any second-year player, there’s a hug possibility of a sophmore slump as pitchers become more accustomed to him. Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford both look like they may be on the downside of their career trajectories, while no one really knows how much Matt Kemp and his body are capable of anymore.
It’s not so much a question of Pederson is ready or not. With four players that are fairly unmovable, GM Ned Colletti has plenty to deal with before he even thinks of bringing up his number one prospect. Ethier and Crawford both have four years left on their deals, Kemp with six and Puig just starting out what could be a dynamic career. If I had to guess, Pederson will spend this year in the minors and IF Colletti can deal one of his veteran OFs, then Joc will be just one injury away from a starting job in Dodgers Blue.