The Los Angeles Dodgers are riding improvements from several different players to a great start in 2019 thus far. While the likes of Cody Bellinger and Hyun-Jin Ryu have deservedly received plenty of the spotlight, Joc Pederson has impressed as well.
Pederson’s .220 batting average may look uninspiring, but his .591 slugging percentage, .928 on-base plus slugging and 145 OPS+ through 42 games would all be career highs if he maintains them. Across Major League Baseball, only Bellinger, Christian Yelich and George Springer have more home runs this season than Pederson, who has 14.
Although he still usually sits against left-handed pitching, Pederson has entrenched himself in the Dodgers’ leadoff spot against righties. On Friday, he helped the Dodgers bounce back from a shutout loss to the Washington Nationals with two solo home runs in an eventual 4-0 L.A. win.
While Pederson is primarily a power hitter, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised the fifth-year outfielder’s approach and stressed his importance to the team’s success, via SportsNet LA:
“I think if you look at the numbers, he’s up there. Even the last four or five games, I thought he’s been good. He’s been swinging at balls in the strike zone, just popping them up, missing the barrel. But it’s just a matter of time, because if he stays in the strike zone you know what he can do. It was good for him to get out there, square up a couple baseballs and hit a couple homers. Obviously, you can trust a process and a plan but until you get rewarded, it’s hard at time in this game when you’re looking at results. A credit to Joc and his production. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
Pederson has struggled through an up-and-down career. His rookie season saw him make the National League All-Star team and Home Run Derby before a horrid second half saw him drop to eighth in the batting order by playoff time.
His struggles in 2017 landed Pederson in the Minor Leagues before becoming a late addition to the Dodgers’ postseason roster and, eventually, positioning himself to win MVP of the 2017 World Series had the Dodgers won Game 7.
Pederson got off to a slow start in 2018, with his numbers dwarfed by those of resurgent veteran Matt Kemp. However, Roberts said something similar then, claiming that the Dodgers would Pederson later that season.
Sure enough, Pederson played in every single one of the team’s playoff games and homered in Game 3 of the World Series, the Dodgers’ only win of that Fall Classic.