Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dodgers' prospect Joc Pederson off to fantastic start in first Double-A stint

Joc Pederson has been one of my favorite prospects ever since the Dodgers were able to snag him in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. He made a brief appearance in the Southern League playoffs last season after playing the entire regular season in the California League.

Pederson is in his first full season in Double-A and, at age 21, is playing against competition significantly older than him. He's the 10th-youngest player in Double-A and the third-youngest in the Southern League behind Ronald Torreyes and Taijuan Walker.

As a youngster, he's atop or near the top of virtually every offensive category in the relatively neutral Southern League (through Saturday).

(Minimum 10 games played)

Batting average: 9th
On-base percentage: 25th
Slugging percentage: 1st
On-base plus slugging: 2nd
Home runs: 1st
RBIs: t-3rd
Runs scored: 1st
Hits: 1st
Doubles: t-8th
Triples: t-2nd
Stolen bases: t-3rd
ISO: 1st
wOBA: 2nd
wRC+: 2nd

This is almost nothing short of amazing. Much was made about Pederson's California League performance in 2012 and some wondered if it was a product of the hitter-friendly environment. Early on (and it is early -- 68 plate appearances), Pederson is proving he's a legitimate hitting prospect.

What's encouraging is Pederson isn't getting lucky. His batting average on balls in play is .300, which is league-average. He's walking less than he did last season (10.2 to 7.4 percent), but he's also striking out less so far (16.2 percent to 11.8 percent).

I'd like to see the walk rate come up a bit, but if he keeps the strikeout rate down and hits for the kind of power he has so far, it's more than acceptable. I'm not expecting him to slug .694 all season, but he should be a .500-plus slugging guy when the season ends.

Pederson ranked as high as No. 4 on prospect lists (Bullpen Banter) and as low as No. 9 (FanGraphs) this winter. He ranked at No. 5 for me, thanks to the signings of Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Some think he's just a fourth outfielder-type (Keith Law), while I'd be surprised if he weren't an every day player in the majors in just a couple of years.

While his center field defense is a question mark, his bat could make it more than possible for him to handle a corner outfield spot.

Another criticism of Pederson was his speed. While he has at least average speed, he was 26-for-40 in stolen bases last season. The 26 steals were nice. The 14 caught stealing number wasn't. This season, he's 6-for-6. Pederson is becoming a better, more well-rounded player -- and he's doing it in the first month of the Double-A season.

In my scouting report of Pederson from June, I compared him to Melky Cabrera (minus the performance-enhancing drugs) with more pop. I could see that coming to fruition.

With Puig on the 7-day disabled list after spraining his left thumb, Pederson -- along with Blake Smith, J.T. Wise and Bobby Coyle -- will be expected to pick up the offensive slack for the Chattanooga Lookouts.

Pederson is proving his worth thus far. Here's hoping it keeps up.

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

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