The Los Angeles Dodgers found themselves in a bit of a roster crunch thanks to the success of rookie outfielder Alex Verdugo. He played himself into an everyday role, leaving the Dodgers with four capable outfielders in Verdugo, A.J. Pollock, Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger played first base for most of his rookie season but has provided excellent defense in right field this year. So Dodgers manager Dave Roberts instead chose to move Pederson, a career outfielder, to first base.
Pederson’s defense has been shaky there, and the Dodgers’ commitment to letting him learn the position seemed perplexing at times given that the team has plenty of other options at the position, including Max Muncy, David Freese and Matt Beaty.
Roberts, however, remains focused on the positives he has seen from Pederson at his new spot on the field. “I think the biggest takeaway for me is the eagerness and willingness to continue to practice and get better each day,” Roberts noted.
“I do see improvement, I see that he’s getting more and more comfortable. As long as we can continue to log innings out there to increase his comfort level, we’re better for it. However we decide to go late in the season, postseason, remains to be seen. There’s really no downside for us to get Joc some repetitions there.”
Five of Pederson’s seven errors this season have come at first base. His latest was on a low throw to home plate in attempt to record a force out with the bases loaded in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Nationals.
In terms of Ultimate Zone Rating, Pederson grades below average as a first baseman. Yet Roberts has continued to preach patience. “He’s going to be fine. It’s not a finished product but this is something that we’re committed to,” Roberts said.
“His teammates understand it, we’ve all bought into it. It’s not all going to be good. It’s not a finished product, and that’s okay. I would say that’s a long ways away. But I think the more you run a player out there, the more comfortable he gets. … I trust his acumen, eagerness to learn and his ability to play the position.”
Pederson is primarily used as a platoon player, with Muncy or Freese playing first when he does not. Though, Freese has temporarily been removed from the equation as more trouble with his left hamstring required a second stint on the 10-day injured list.
Pedersonhas also continued to play some outfield to give Verdugo, Bellinger and Pollock occasional breathers.
With Chris Taylor lost to injury until mid-August at the earliest, and Kiké Hernandez bound for the IL as well, the Dodgers’ depth is thinned out, which could mean even more time for Pederson at first base.