Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. That may be something of an understatement: at age 22 this year (more than four years younger than the average AAA player), he led all Triple-A players in on-base percentage, OPS, runs, and home runs. He hit .303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs, 30 steals, and 100 walks. He became the first player since Frank Demaree in 1934 to post a 30/30 season in the Pacific Coast League.
There were two caveats to the season: Pederson also struck out 149 times in 553 PA, and he was playing in Albuquerque, a strong hitter's park in a strong hitter's league.
The park effect we can compensate for: he hit .333/.485/.647 with 17 homers at home, .278/.389/.527 with 16 homers on the road. Even if you throw out the batting average and OBP boost from his home park and just look at the road numbers, that's a strong line for a Triple-A player in his age cohort.
As you know if you are a Dodgers fan or a Pederson fantasy owner, his minor league success hasn't translated into the big leagues yet. He's been playing a week now and is 2-for-15 in seven games, with two walks, seven strikeouts, and no extra-base hits. That's a tiny sample, of course, but he's clearly having trouble making contact at this stage. Given the high strikeout rate in Triple-A, that shouldn't be surprising.
So, what should we expect out of Pederson for the future?
I note that his road stats this year are extremely similar to his overall stats for Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, .278/.389/.527 this year vs. .278/.381/.497 last year; identical batting average, almost identical OBP, the only difference being a slight increase in SLG this year that is well within random noise and could very well be just the difference in league environments between the PCL and the Southern League.
If you deflate the Albuquerque stats by looking at just the PCL road numbers, both Pederson's 2013 and 2014 numbers parse out with a crude MLE as about .230-.250 at the major league level, with an OBP in the .300-.330 range and a SLG somewhere between .400 and .430. That looks disappointing, but keep in mind that he's just 22, he'll throw in some steals, too, and the average National League hitter right now is at .249/.312/.384.
If you believe the MLE, if Pederson played regularly he would project as a league-average or slightly better hitter right now. That's not bad for a 22-year-old and gives him something to build on. It is better to make a conservative estimate rather than an over-aggressive one when dealing with extreme park effects,and going from Albuqeurque to Dodgers Stadium is pretty extreme.
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