Last spring the Los Angeles Dodgers held a competition between Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson for the starting job in center field. Both players put together a strong case, though former manager Don Mattingly went with Pederson, in a decision that was hardly a surprise.
Beginning in the Majors for the first time in his career, the rookie center fielder went on to have a successful first half in 2015. Along with playing steady, if not stellar defense, Pederson was one of the Dodgers’ hottest hitters.
His success at the plate, coupled with Jimmy Rollins’ ongoing struggles, led to Pederson assuming duties as a leadoff hitter. Though, he did go on to struggle and was replaced by Kiké Hernandez down the stretch last season.
Pederson is back in center field under rookie manager Dave Roberts, and while Pederson has yet to lead off through four games this season, he’s been in the lineup for each contest.
After an offseason and Spring Training spent tinkering with his swing and batting stance, Pederson has made better contact and had an improved approach. With the Dodgers trailing 7-4 in the eighth inning, he slugged a towering two-run homer that was tracked by MLB’s Statcast technology:
Pederson batted .210/.346/.417 with 19 doubles, 26 home runs, 54 RBIs, 170 strikeouts, 92 walks, a .335 wOBA and 115 wRC+ over 151 games last season. Entering play Friday, he’s hitting .313/.353/.625 (5-for-16) with two doubles, the one home run and five RBIs.
However, Pederson is tied for the Major League lead with seven strikeouts, and has just one walk in 17 plate appearances.