The Los Angeles Dodgers got their long-awaited look last season at Joc Pederson, who has been pegged as the club’s center fielder for years to come. Pederson began 2015 on a high note, crushing 20 home runs, collecting 40 RBIs and drawing 58 walks prior to the All-Star break.
His success earned him a starting spot in the 2015 All-Star Game, and Pederson also participated in the Home Run Derby — finishing second to Todd Frazier, at the time Cincinnati’s hometown hero.
However, just like any other young player making his rise in Major League Baseball, an adjustment period and struggles followed the early success.
As opposing pitchers began to dissect Pederson’s swing, complete with a high leg kick and plenty of force, it led to a prolonged slump through the second half of 2015.
Pederson finished the season with 170 strikeouts, which was fifth-most in the Majors. However, the rookie center fielder did flash a keen eye at the plate and led the Dodgers with 92 walks.
Pederson used the offseason to refine his swing, with the aid of Johnny Washington and new Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward. Washington, who spent last season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, is now a hitting coach for the San Diego Padres’ Double-A affiliate.
He and Pederson have a strong relationship that dates back several years. The most notable difference in Pederson’s new swing is the high leg kick has been replaced with a much more subtle movement.
According to J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News, the soon-to-be-24-year-old has a renewed focus on using the entire field
“I’ve been working hard this offseason to work on becoming a better hitter, hitting more line drives and using the whole field,” Pederson said. “I think I’m gifted that the power will be there. I’m just trying to hit balls on the barrel.”
Pederson batted .178/.317/.300 after All-Star break and lost the starting job in center field to Kiké Hernandez. Minor in-season changes to Pederson’s swing and batting stance had a minimal impact over the last month of the regular season.
Overall, Pederson hit .210/.346/.417 with 26 home runs, 19 doubles, 54 RBIs, 170 strikeouts, 92 walks, a .335 wOBA and 115 wRC+ over 151 games last season.
Pederson made his 2016 Spring Training debut on Friday, smacking a single to center field in his first at-bat, then striking out in the next two to finish 1-for-3 on the day. He went 0-for-3 with strikeouts against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.