There are few on the Los Angeles Dodgers roster who can fully understand both ends of the spectrum that come with being in the limelight quite like Joc Pederson. The highly-touted center fielder burst onto the scene during the first half last season, earning himself a trip All-Star Game.
Pederson also participated in the 2015 Home Run Derby, finishing in second place to then-hometown hero Todd Frazier. At the midway point of the season, Pederson was batting .230/.364/.487, with 20 home runs, 40 RBIs and 58 walks.
However, as tends to be the case with rookies, he soon found out how much baseball can become a game of adjustments. As the pitchers began to dissect more video of Pederson, his strikeout rate increased, and his success at the plate began to wane.
Pederson adjusted his batting stance in effort to break free of his prolonged slump, but the results were futile. He finished the season with 170 strikeouts and 92 walks over 151 games.
With the Dodgers overhauling their coaching staff, Pederson worked with hitting coach Turner Ward and assistant hitting coach Tim Hyers on his swing and batting stance. The soon-to-be-24-year-old ditched the high leg kick and had a renewed focus on using the entire field.
Despite the work to improve, an evaluator had a critical assessment of Pederson near the end of Spring Training, via ESPN’s Buster Olney:
“He looks like he has no clue,” said one evaluator. … “He’s striking out a ton. The question for me,” the evaluator continued, “is whether they will send him back to Triple-A to get some confidence and to get things right.”
Pederson has started each of the Dodgers’ four games this season. He’s batting .313/.353/.625 (5-for-16) with two doubles, one home run, five RBIs, one walk and seven strikeouts.
Pederson’s first home run came in the eighth inning on Thursday — a towering two-run shot to right-center field at AT&T Park. In addressing some of Pederson’s previous offensive struggles, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts placed high value on the defense the young center fielder provides.
Kiké Hernandez eventually took over in center field toward the later stages of the 2015 season, though Roberts indicated he doesn’t anticipate using a platoon solely based on an opponent sending a left-handed starter to the mound.