After a breakout 2016 season, big things were expected of Joc Pederson with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. While his average was just .246, his on-base percentage was a respectable .352 and his slugging was a healthy .495 thanks to 25 home runs.
But then, 2017 happened. In just 102 games, Pederson slashed .212/.331/.407 with just 11 home runs — which led to some extended time with Triple-A Oklahoma City. At the time of being demoted, Pederson was hitting .215/.329/.418.
Moreover, he was mired in a 2-for-41 slump, which presumably influenced the Dodgers to trade for Curtis Granderson and send Pederson down. The Dodgers maintained confidence in their young center fielder, and he returned an improved player.
It wasn’t enough to be included on the roster for the National League Division Series, as Pederson instead was on the taxi squad. But he was added for the NL Championship Series and remained active for the World Series.
While it was a rough regular season for Pederson, it was soon forgotten thanks to an impressive performance during the postseason, where he appeared in 11 games (26 plate appearances) and hit three home runs.
Still just 25 years old and under team control for three more seasons, Pederson will be a fascinating player to watch this offseason thanks to the crowded nature of the Dodger outfield.
For Pederson, the 2017 highlight has to be the entire World Series. Of his aforementioned three home runs hit in the playoffs, the truth is each of them came in the Fall Classic.
The first was in Game 2, when Pederson broke up Justin Verlander’s no-hitter and shutout, giving the Dodgers life in a game they ultimately went on to lose.
His second homer came in Game 4, and was of the three-run variety, capping off a five-run ninth inning that put the Dodgers ahead for good.
The third (and the biggest) came in the must-win Game 6 game at Dodger Stadium. With Verlander out of the game and the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead, Pederson lined an opposite-field shot into the left field pavilion off of Joe Musgrove.
He memorably capped it off with with an emotional run around the bases. Had the Dodgers come out victorious in Game 7, Pederson likely would have been the favorite for World Series MVP.
He finishing tied for the team lead in hits (six) and RBI (five), along with his team-leading three home runs, during the seven games against the Houston Astros.
For most teams, a 25-year-old center fielder with the track record of Pederson, his role in the upcoming season would be assumed. But not the Dodgers.
If not for the strong finish to the season, it would have been easy to imagine Pederson being the odd man out in 2018 with the return of Andrew Toles, the emergence of Chris Taylor and the re-emergence of Yasiel Puig.
Not to mention Baseball America’s No. 35 prospect, Alex Verdugo, and the glut of other outfielders on the roster (Kiké Hernandez, Trayce Thompson).
Oh, and then there’s the possibility of adding Giancarlo Stanton and/or Shohei Ohtani (who presumably would be playing outfield on occasion).
In all honesty, Pederson makes the most sense in a number of different trade scenarios for all of the reasons listed above. He’s likely far more valuable to other teams than he is to the Dodgers at the moment.
And if that’s the case, now is the time to move him with three years of team control remaining.