Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Scouting report: Joc Pederson, the Dodgers' best hitting prospect

When I went to Rancho Cucamonga in April, I was hoping to see Joc Pederson in action. Instead, he was out after straining his groin. But I did get to see him in Stockton a couple weeks ago, and I was impressed.

He is easily the Dodgers' best position prospect and will be ranked a little higher in my midseason prospect rankings (out by the end of June). I ranked him No. 6 coming into the season.

Ray Guilfoyle of Minor League Ball was impressed with Pederson this winter.
"Yes, he is several years away from making an impact at the big league level, but it is nice to finally hear something good about a Dodgers hitting prospect."
And he's right. Despite the Dodgers need for impact hitting prospects, Pederson, 20, is still at least a couple years away from being big league-ready. Here's my scouting report on the young outfielder.

How he got here
The Dodgers drafted him in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Palo Alton High School. He was committed to play college ball at USC, but was swayed by a $600,000 bonus the Dodgers gave him to sign.

Pederson's father Stu played at USC and appeared in eight games with the Dodgers in 1985.

Because he signed just prior to the deadline in 2010, he only appeared in three games his first season with the Ogden Raptors. He began 2011 with the Great Lakes Loons out of necessity. The Loons were short on outfielders and Pederson, who was in Extended Spring Training, didn't make his season debut until May 29 (nearly two months into the season).

He didn't fare particularly well with the Loons, going just 8-for-50 (.160) with four runs, an RBI and two stolen bases. He did have a nice 7:9 BB:K ratio.

He ended up back in Ogden when its season began and absolutely tore up the league, posting a .353/.429/.568 line with 11 home runs, 64 RBI, 20 doubles, 54 runs scored, 24 stolen bases and a 36:54 BB:K ratio. Those numbers earned him team MVP ahead of O'Koyea Dickson (who also hit really well).

By all accounts, he's the Dodgers' best position prospect. In a system devoid of hitting prospects, Pederson stands out more than he would in, say, the Cubs' system. But that doesn't mean he has any less value.

Vitals
At  6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he is a big kid. Wait, 185 pounds? That doesn't seem too big. Well, he's bigger than that, especially after seeing him in person. He's probably closer to 200 than he is 185, but that doesn't change his game or impact the way he plays. He's athletic and has some projection left in his frame.

At 20 years old, he might not be done filling out yet.

Tools
Here's how I would grade his tools. His hit tool includes plate discipline.

Tools Now Future
Hitting   45   60
Power   35   50
Speed   50   55
Fielding   55   60
Arm   55   60

Hitting
Pederson has a chance to be a at least an average MLB player. An average MLB player could mean a guy who posts a .280/.350/.400 line with 15-20 home run pop and 15-20 stolen base potential. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of production.

I talked to a scout when seeing Pederson and even though he wasn't watching the Quakes, he did say he likes his build, his bat control and his swing.

After watching him the first night, his batting stance reminded me of someone, but I couldn't figure out who. It was bugging the hell out of me, but the next day, I finally figured it out. His up-and-down stance is reminiscent of Adam LaRoche.

LaRoche's stance is open while Pederson's is not. The open stance is a staple of power hitters, which LaRoche is and Pederson is not. However, Pederson should hit for more average and get on base more than LaRoche does.

His strikeout rate is 17.2 percent this season, which is 3 percent less than the league-average. His walk rate is 9.1 percent, which is 1 percent better than league-average. So, he has good command of the strike zone and what he's looking for when making a plate appearance.

Pederson doesn't have any triggers and his stance is pretty quiet -- something I actually prefer when watching hitters. I've never been a fan of the toe-tap (probably because I tried it when I played and failed miserably).

Pederson lunged at a few pitches (what hitter doesn't?), but in his first at-bat of the Stockton Ports' series, Pederson roped a triple to the right-center field gap. It was a legitimate triple with no outfielder misplays. He also had a single and a walk in the game.

Here's a slideshow of his swing (sorry for the crappy quality).



Pederson walked after this plate appearance. He has good balance in his swing, despite the lunge. His approach is quite advanced for a 20-year-old playing against competition at an average of two or three years older than him.

Baserunning/Speed

In perhaps the most exciting play of the night, Pederson was sent to second base with Scott Wingo on third base. Pederson made it to second easily while Wingo made a great slide to complete the double-steal.

Pederson is no Dee Gordon on the basepaths, but he has average speed with a chance to have a tick more than average speed in the future.

But he is a smart baserunner. As I said with his hitting approach, his skills all seem advanced for his age, save his power.

Defense
Pederson is nimble and athletic enough to handle center field, but Leon Landry's presence with him in Rancho has relegated him to left field.

In the first game of the series, a Ports' player hit a ball to the left-center field gap. Pederson and Landry were in pursuit of it and nearly collided on the warning track. Pederson slide to avoid contact while Landry came up with the ball.

His range is good enough for center, so it's really good for left field.

In the second game I saw, Pederson had a chance to throw a a runner out at home. He fielded a single and fired a rocket to the plate. It was a really good throw, but it was just a touch off-line (up the first base line) and prevented catcher Michael Pericht from recording the out. It was about a 65 in terms of strength.

I was sitting on the third base side and was thoroughly impressed with the strength and accuracy of the throw. If he doesn't stick in center field, he definitely has a future in left field.

Conclusion
Pederson, right now, is the Dodgers' best hitting prospect. He doesn't have as much upside as the recently drafted Corey Seager, but that's not a knock against Pederson. His ceiling is an above-average MLB player in either center or left field. If he can produce at the plate while playing center field, his value increase. His lack of 30-home run power makes him not as valuable in left field.

I think a good comparison for him, and I hate comparing him to a Giant, is Melky Cabrera. Cabrera seems to be coming into his own at age 27. Pederson's build, skill set and ability are right in line with Cabrera's. Let's just hope Pederson makes an impact sooner in the majors than Cabrera did.

Plus, the kid has a hell of a handshake. You can always tell something about a man by his handshake. It was strong and firm.

Photo credits: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

2 comments:

  1. Great analysis. I hope he becomes a solid member of the lineup eventually. We need all of the hitting prospects we can get. I wonder how O'Koyea Dickson will develop as well. He's hitterish.

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  2. Thanks much.

    Yes, Dickson is. I wrote about him over the winter: http://www.feelinkindablue.com/2012/02/hitterish-prospect-okoyea-dickson-of.html

    Not sure if you checked it out or not.

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