Commentary: Are Dodgers really going to hand unproven Joc Pederson job in center?

Joc Pederson looks on from the dugout during the 2013 All-Star Futures Game.
(Elsa / Getty Images)

This is going to happen. Not certain if it’s smart or reckless or just inevitable.

But come opening day, the Dodgers are clearly counting on young Joc Pederson as their starting center fielder.

Matt Kemp has been given away – excuse me -- traded to the Padres, creating an opening in the outfield. Only it’s not Andre Ethier who apparently is going to benefit, but the wunderkind known as Pederson.

The Dodgers are still expected to move Ethier, and if they do, I have no real good idea what their Plan B is for center should Pederson fail to make the adjustment. Scott Van Slyke? Chris Heisey?


They could actually go from having one too many outfielders, to being one shy.

It all hinges on Pederson, the 22-year-old who was Pacific Coast League’s MVP last season. He pretty much tore up triple-A, leading the PCL in home runs (33), on-base percentage (.435), runs (106) and walks (100). He was the league’s first player in 80 years to hit 30-plus homers and steal 30 bases.

Naturally, the Dodgers wanted to find a place for him and did when they sent Kemp to the Padres.

Only Pederson making the jump from triple-A to the majors is no sure thing. In a September call-up last season, his performance did not scream the “Can’t-Miss Kid.” In 38 plate appearances – an admittedly small sample size – he hit .143 (4 for 28) with no extra-base hits, home runs or RBIs.

And now they’re going to hand him the job in center?

There is really nothing left for Pederson to prove in the minors and his play says he deserves a shot. But it is a risk, and certainly represents the great unknown.

The Dodgers might best be served hanging onto Ethier in case Pederson falters. This would not make the veteran outfielder any happier, since he’s already on record stating he wants to start next season. And sitting behind an unproven youngster doesn’t figure to make him any happier.

There’s risk in starting any fresh minor league star. Some make it, some don’t. It’s just best to have a creditable backup should they not.