Three months in, are you liking Joc Pederson? There’s plenty to like. Three months in, are you just a tad confused by Joc Pederson? A bit of that would be understandable too.
Say this for Pederson, on the whole he certainly has delivered. More than delivered. Not only does he lead the team in homers, but after looking slightly uncomfortable in center during last year’s September call-up, he’s playing some of the best centerfield the Dodgers have ever seen.
His 20 home runs are also tied with Paul Goldschmidt for fifth in the National League. This is not a young man who gets cheated on his swings. They are powerful stuff, like Paul Bunyan trying to fell a Sequoia with one mighty blow. That “exit velocity” stat is not lost on Pederson.
He’s been batting leadoff since the end of April, and although a long way from the prototypical leadoff hitter, he’s far more success than failure, not that it’s all been ideal. He hit .308 in the eighth spot and is hitting .231 leading off.
Like plenty of power hitters, he strikes out a lot. Too much, though you assume that will change with experience. He is on his way to leading the N.L. in strikeouts. He’s one back of Giancarlo Stanton (95 strikeouts) for the lead and Stanton is now out following hand surgery.
But he also walks a great deal. He’s tied for second in the league for walks (55), which is why despite an overall batting average of .244 he is still seventh in on-base percentage (.384). His on-base plus slugging percentage (.911) is also seventh in the N.L.
Those are some pretty impressive numbers for a rookie who just turned 23 in April.
The high number of strikeouts is hardly a surprise. He had 149 last year in triple-A Albuquerque in 445 at-bats. But he also stole 30 bases for Albuquerque and that’s the other slightly puzzling aspect of his game.
Despite success in the minors and obvious speed, his running game has yet to show itself. Thus far he’s stolen two bases in seven attempts.
When you’ve had a grand total of 362 plate appearances in your entire career, there is naturally more to be learned, more to polish, more adjustments to make. He is showing signs of making adjustments to his big swing when the hitting situation requires it.
That’s almost the best thing about Pederson. As promising is his first three months have been, there certainly appear better days ahead. He’s hard to get to know, somewhat private and careful and cliché-driven when talking to the media.
But he clearly wants to learn and improve, and you have to be liking that.