The Next Great Thing.
Not much was expected of this spring of 22-year-old Joc Pederson, owner of 18 mostly forgettable previous major league appearances.
But he absolutely tore up the Pacific Coast League last season and was named its MVP after becoming the first player since 1934 to put up at least 30 homers and 30 stolen bases.
Center field became his position to lose this spring, and after hitting .338 and tying for the team high with six home runs, he did not lose it.
And now still very early in the season, he is showing signs of why the Dodgers and most of minor league baseball was so high on the Palo Alto product. He made it particularly clear Wednesday, getting a hit in his only official at-bat, driving in a run and walking three times.
Then there was his spectacular diving catch of catcher Mike Zunino’s line drive the second and throwing Zunino out at the plate in the fifth.
Since Zunino had thrown Pederson out twice in the series attempting to steal second, there was a bit of a revenge factor going.
“Definitely,” Pederson said. “You know when someone gets you. He threw me out yesterday and threw me out again today. I was glad to return the favor.”
Pederson has been considered the Dodgers’ best defensive center fielder for a couple of seasons now, though Manager Don Mattingly seemed to almost issue careful praise.
“Joc is a solid defender,” Mattingly said. “That talks to the importance of what he’s capable of doing out there kind of on an everyday basis. Not so much having to make the spectacular plays, but just the bread and butter, getting good jumps, running good routes, being solid for us.”
At the plate Pederson is hitting .310 with three doubles. He leads the team both in walks (seven) and strikeouts (11). Pederson battled strikeout issues even in the minors, but now he’s batting eighth, ahead of the pitcher, and not always getting the best pitches to hit.
“It’s a tough spot for a young player, that eight hole,” Mattingly said. “Tough spot for him to know when to be patient. He has a good eye so I think it’s just him staying with his game plan.”
Pederson, however, is not about to lobby to hit higher.
“I’m just happy to be in the lineup,” he said.
For the Next Great Thing, it’s a start.