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Joc Pederson’s weird evolution

From top prospect to platooner to leadoff hitter

MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

First, congrats to Joc Pederson on becoming a dad. Joc and his wife Kelsey gave birth to baby girl Poppy on Sunday. (I only hope she turns out sweeter than the Kingsman villain.)

Also, what great timing to have the kid on the LCS off day. Congrats to the Pedersons.

Joc’s path to the big leagues went from surprise, to foregone conclusion, to finding a spot in a perennially crowded Dodgers lineup.

An 11th-round pick in 2010 out of San Francisco suburb Palo Alto, Pederson was always an intriguing prospect due to his multiset box of tools and high ceiling profile. Had he given college three years, he very well could have been a top draft pick.

The Dodgers benefited from his early entry and selected him 352nd overall. He hit right away in the minors, also proving a serious threat on the basepaths and providing some power as well.

He thumped Rookie ball in year two and emulated those numbers and more in year three, at age 20 in High-A Rancho Cucamonga. He hit 18 home runs that year and stole 26 bases, following stolen base numbers of 24 and another 26.

Prior to that year, entering 2011, he was on John’s radar. In 2012, he entered the Dodgers top 10 prospects. He was third in 2013 and in 2014 was John’s top Dodgers prospect.

Pederson peaked with a dynamite 2014 for Triple-A Albuquerque with 30 home runs, 33 stolen bases and a .303 average. Always possessive of a keen eye, he walked an even 100 times in just 121 games to post a .435 OBP. His OPS ballooned to 1.017.

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game Three Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

He earned a September call-up in 2014 to break his MLB seal. Going into 2015, he was one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He also had plans to become a big league regular that year after making his debut.

He made the 2015 Dodgers Opening Day roster but had a tough rookie campaign, hitting .210 and striking out 170 times. He did walk 92 times and smack 26 home runs, but there was a lot of California love expected out of the minor league star.

Los Angeles won the NL West for the third straight time in 2015 —currently at six straight titles— and with contention, they have flexed their budget muscles to full power and built an extremely deep team in the past couple seasons.

Pederson bumped up to a .246 average in 2016, but hit a paltry .125 against lefties, becoming a strict platoon player with the likes of Howie Kendrick and Kiké Hernandez.

The lefty always projected as a potential platooner, but the hope was he could develop into a respectable hitter against the same-sided arm and be an everyday player.

2017 saw his stock fall further as he batted .212, a low number by even today’s standards. Groin and neck injuries cost him time throughout the year and his power also dropped to a career-low 11 homers.

After running wild in the minors, he’s stolen just 15 bags in the majors.

His defense has always been a plus, playing a lot of center field for the Dodgers. Nowadays, he’s mostly in left with Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp splitting right while Cody Bellinger, Hernandez or Chris Taylor man center.

A 2018 .248 average is his highest since 2016. His 1-for-6 stealing rate resembles the non-runner he’s become. However, the 26-year old has maintained a valuable eye at the plate and become manager Dave Roberts’ leadoff man in his lefty lineup.

Everyday players have joined starting pitchers and non-shifting defenses as things of the past for many MLB teams. The Dodgers utilize their extremely deep roster in a platoon fashion. Pederson gets the starts against righties but sits against lefties, giving way to Kemp, Hernandez or Taylor.

It’s been an in-congruent road to becoming an impact MLB player, but Pederson has become an extremely important asset for the Dodgers, especially in the 2017 World Series when he hit three home runs and had five RBI in the thrilling seven game series.

Has he fulfilled his top prospect status? Or reverted back to a good-but-not-great player? He definitely has a career to be proud of, but where does his value stand for you?

(A final note: Pederson is one of the few Jewish MLB players, and as a Jew, I couldn’t resist including this final note.)