Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson suffered a shoulder injury earlier this week, reportedly a relatively mild Grade 1 separation as noted by Eric Stephen at True Blue LA. He'll miss 10 days at least but it does not sound like a serious long-term injury. Bad shoulder aside, Pederson was having an excellent season at Triple-A Albuquerque, angling for a promotion to the majors as soon as the Dodgers had an opening on their roster. What can we expect when he's healthy again? Let's explore that with Friday's Prospect of the Day.
Joc Pederson is the son of former major league outfielder Stu Pederson. Bloodlines get you noticed but Joc was a very successful high school player in his own right and was drafted in the 11th round by the Dodgers in 2010 out of high school in Palo Alto, California. He could have gone as high as the second round but had a strong commitment to Southern Cal and a chance to play both baseball and football for the Trojans. He passed that up for a $600,000 over-slot bonus, equivalent to second round money.
He got his career off to a good start with a .353/.429/.568 line with 11 homers and 24 steals in 68 games for Ogden in the Pioneer League in 2011. Jumped up to the High-A California League in 2012, he didn't miss a beat with a .313/.396/.510 slash line, 18 homers, 26 steals, and a wRC+ of 137 despite being two and a half years younger than the average Cal League player. He lost no momentum in 2013, hitting .278/.381/.497 with 22 homers, 31 steals, and a wRC+ of 155 for Double-A Chattanooga.
Pederson's run of professional success continued this year up until his injury, with a .319/.437/.568 mark, 17 homers and 20 steals in 74 pre-injury games for Triple-A Albuquerque for a wRC+ of 163, the best of his career. It is true that the home park helps him (OPS 1.168 at home, .871 on the road) but he's almost five years younger than the average PCL player and has still been effective outside of New Mexico. His overall success this year is within context of his career so he can't be written off as a thin-air fluke.
A left-handed hitter and thrower listed at 6-1, 185, Pederson was born April 21, 1992. His on-field performance has obviously been impressive, with a broad range of contributions including power, speed, and on-base ability. Despite that, his physical tools don't stand out in a crowd. The former wide receiver is a good overall athlete, but none of his individual tools make you go wow. His raw power, speed, and arm strength all grade out as average to slightly above on a physical basis.
What stands out about Pederson are his instincts and ability to make adjustments.
For example, last year he had problems with left-handed pitching, hitting just .200/.299/.269 (while battering right-handers at a .316/.420/.609 clip), showing a tendency to lose his normal swing mechanics against southpaws. Reports from PCL observers indicate that this is less of a problem this year. He still gets crossed up occasionally and retains a notable platoon split, but he's made adjustments and is no longer helpless against lefties, hitting .280/.384/.495 against them this season while continuing to destroy right-handers at .343/.469/.614. Left-handed pitching remains an issue but he's worked to improve it and has made rapid progress.
Pederson does go through phases where he strikes out a lot, but his batting eye is one of his better assets and he draws walks even when he's slumping, which keeps his OBP up.
Pederson's instincts show up to a great extent on the bases and with the glove. He's an aggressive but intelligent baserunner, swiping 31 in 39 attempts last year and 20 out of 27 this year. He's spent most of his career in center field and has steadily improved his ability to track the ball and get good jumps. His arm is average in strength but generally accurate and he can handle all three outfield spots.
Given the disparity between his decently average physical tools and his excellent performance, scouting opinion about Pederson is still somewhat mixed. Some still see him as "tweener" who will have a nice career as a fourth outfielder, but who does nothing well enough to play 160 games a year for a playoff team. Others believe that his track record of consistent success and proven ability to upgrade his game as he moves up the ladder will make him a long-term regular who contributes in multiple categories.
As Pederson bashes minor league pitching, the number of doubters grows smaller.