The Dodgers finished up their Cactus League slate by losing to the White Sox by a 7-3 score in their final game in Arizona. They’ll come home tonight to begin the Freeway series against the Angels before opening the regular season on Thursday afternoon against the Giants at Dodger Stadium. In the meantime the left field position is still technically undecided. Matt Kemp is the front runner to get the opening day nod, and the final two reserve outfield spots are in competition between three players. Those three players are Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, and Trayce Thompson.
Of course as noted by everyone on the planet every 10 minutes on the internet, (including yours truly), Thompson is out of options. While Thompson is out of options and the Dodgers risk losing him if he’s not on the active roster and with Toles having a solid spring, Pederson has fallen to the bottom of the depth chart.
It goes without saying that Pederson has done himself no favors. He’s had a dreadful spring. The 25-year old came into today’s game against the White Sox carrying a .170/.250/.298 (8 for 47) with one home run and just four extra-base hits. The word is that the Dodgers are even trying to teach him how to play a little first base. That thought is mind blowing, but let’s stick to one thing at a time here.
Yes Pederson has been terrible. He looks lost at the plate, but let’s not give up on the guy. He’s been a good prospect and a talented young player since he made his MLB debut in blue back in 2014. As a matter of fact, Joc’s contact rate (something that was seen as his primary problem) has improved every year. His K% has decreased from 29.1% in 2015, to 21.1% in 2017. Yes Joc took a step backwards last season after his year was derailed because of injuries. He appeared in only 102 games and tallied only 323 trips to the plate in 2017. However don’t forget about his three home runs in the World Series.
Let’s just not pretend that Joc is something other than what he is. Pederson’s game (Granted a lot of players these days have the same skill set, but it’s still a valuable skill set) is power, walks and defense. As a matter of fact before his injury riddled 2017 season, Joc was an above average center fielder that was able to cover a lot of ground. His range was impressive and his defensive ratings painted the picture of a respectable defender. His total zone fielding runs above average was a +5 rating in 2015, and a +6 in 2016. He made spectacular plays like the one below.
Centerfield is a tough position. Maybe Joc’s days of center field are behind him. It’s funny to say that about a 25-year old, but for arguments sake we’ll play devil’s advocate here and do it. Even if Joc is slated to share left field with Kemp, or serve as a fourth outfielder, he can still be a useful player.
He did belt 25 home runs and 26 home runs from 2015-2016 respectively. Steamer is projecting a .243/.355/.474 line with 19 home runs, 53 runs batted in, a .230 isolated power mark and a wRC+ of 120. I think there is still hope for Joc to be a productive player. So let’s not throw in the towel on him. Don’t give up on Joc just yet.