Joc Pederson wears Dodger Blue during Spring Training 2014. Camelback Ranch, AZ. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Excitement Builds for Joc Pederson's Dodger Debut

It’s not often when a prospect comes up within the Dodgers’ farm system with such an excitement surrounding him like Joc Pederson. Pederson, ready to don Dodger Blue in September, has been one of the most successful homegrown position player prospects the Dodgers have had in years. Joc, while essentially blocked by the excess of Dodger outfielders in 2014, has been crushing records in Triple-A this season. Since the 22-year old outfielder out of Palo Alto High School was drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 June Amateur Draft, I have followed his journey through the ranks on the Dodger minor league ladder.

On Monday, Joc Pederson was voted to the 2014 All-PCL Team. He is the only Isotope to be selected.

The left-handed hitting outfielder, was a superstar for his high school team at Palo Alto High School, and anyone who spoke about Joc already knew he was headed to superstardom. I first wrote about Joc after he signed with the Dodgers and began playing in the minors. The Dodgers were very lucky to sign Joc after he turned down a scholarship to my alma mater USC. He was to follow his father’s footsteps and play for his “dream” school USC.

Joc Pderson wears Dodger Blue and works out during Spring Training 2014. Camelback Ranch, AZ. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Joc Pderson wears Dodger Blue and works out during Spring Training 2014. Camelback Ranch, AZ. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

Joc originally entertained the possibility of a $1 million signing bonus in order to lure him away from postponing his professional baseball career to play college ball. The turning point for Joc came when his favorite USC coach Chad Kreuter was fired. Pederson was then more inclined to take a lesser signing bonus ($600,000) to start his professional career.

Pederson very briefly played for the Rookie Level in Arizona, but after 3 games he was promoted to the High-Rookie Ogden Raptors in 2011 where he played 68 games. After raking it in Ogden and hitting .353 with 11 homeruns and 24 stolen bases in 310 plate appearances, Joc was promoted to the Single-A Great Lakes Loons in mid-2011.

Pederson played just 16 games with Great Lakes before moving up the next rung of the minor league ladder in 2012 when he started the season with the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Joc would go on to move up one level in the minors each season in the Dodgers’ organization. With the Quakes, Joc continued to find success at the plate and on the base path. He hit .313 with 18 homeruns and 26 stolen base in 499 plate appearances for Rancho Cucamonga.

Joc’s next stepping stone toward the Majors would be in AA-Chattanooga. Some growing pains are always common in the minors when it comes to most prospects. They all can’t be Yasiel Puig‘s who are essentially born to play in the Majors. Most take some time to mature and improve in all aspects of becoming a Major Leaguer. In 123 games with the Lookouts, Joc hit .278 with 22 homeruns and 31 stolen bases. While his numbers dipped slightly, Joc worked hard in the winter to come back even stronger and hungrier before starting Triple-A in 2014.

Pederson’s Triple-A season for the Albuquerque Isotopes has been one of the greatest PCL performances in generations. In 116 games, Joc hit .300/.432/.580 with 32 homeruns and 30 stolen bases. He has hit 15 doubles and 4 triples thus far. Joc became the first player in the PCL to hit 30 or more homeruns with 30 or more stolen bases in a season since 1934. He still has a week to play in the PCL to pad those numbers even more.

While Joc’s numbers make us salivate, let’s not forget that he is still struggling to keep his strikeouts at bay. So far he has struck out 143 times in 529 AAA plate appearances. His  high strikeout rate and his lack of success against left-handed pitching is still a concern. There’s no guarantee that Joc is going to be hitting bombs out of Dodger Stadium consistently once he’s brought up in September. Not everyone is Yasiel Puig, although I wish they all could be.

Then again, maybe Joc will light up the So Cal crowd with his combined power and speed making us forget about the disappointing seasons from Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier in the Dodger outfield. I also don’t want to think about how the Dodgers are stuck with Crawford and Ethier through 2017 when we have a young vibrant player like Joc waiting in the wings to be the Dodgers’ starting outfielder on Opening Day 2015.

With Yasiel Puig commanding center field now, Joc would slot into left field or right field fantastically for the Dodgers in the long-run. Even though Joc played a lot of center field in the minors, he has been moved around amongst all three outfield positions in 2014. I still believe Puig is the most gifted outfielder the Dodgers have right now and he should stick to center field, but having Pederson’s experience in center can give the Dodgers’ outfield extra depth for the future.

Pederson’s base stealing abilities could really add another weapon to the Dodger lineup. With Dee Gordon already the best base stealer in the Majors, the addition of Pederson who could realistically steal upwards of 20-25+ homeruns at the Major League level in a season, would give the Dodgers extra oomph on the base path.

His power is tantalizing, and even if he doesn’t hit 30 homeruns with the Dodgers next season, shall I remind you of the 9 combined homeruns for Crawford and Ethier so far this season? I’d rather think of future Joc homeruns and subsequent bubble parties in the Dodger dugout. I don’t want to think about failed prospects like Jerry Sands either. Joc is going to be good. Very good.

I had the opportunity to see Joc Pederson play in the Cactus League during Spring Training this year, and I wrote about how Joc could fit into the Dodger outfield in 2014. At the time, we had no idea how Matt Kemp‘s season would go with his injury list. With an older and injury prone outfield, I had my hope that Joc could break into the Majors for a cup of coffee at some point in 2014.

A cup of coffee is all Joc will be getting in September, according to manager Don Mattingly.

“We’ll use him, but I’ll use him like any other guy coming up in September,” Mattingly said. “I don’t really plan on throwing him out there or anything. I think it’ll be a good experience. I think it’ll be good for him.”

I’m truly excited to watch Joc get his proverbial cup of coffee. I think it’ll be more like an espresso shot.

 

Tags: Joc Pederson Los Angeles Dodgers

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