Joc Pederson has a fantastic name. He’s also a fantastic, and relatively unheralded, prospect in the Dodgers system. After having a successful 2011 debut in short-season rookie ball, he’s following that up by holding his own at Hi-A despite just turning 20 less than a month ago.
Pederson signed out of high school for $600,000 in 2010, right before the signing deadline in a bit of a surprise move. Pederson was also a credible football player in California and he brings those instincts to the diamond. Pederson’s tools are more above-average than eye-catching, but they play up due to his approach to the game. That said, given his lack of baseball polish and focus on multiple sports, his 2011 debut struck me as both surprising and extremely encouraging.
Pederson split 2011 between Lo-A Great Lakes and Short Season Ogden. He struggled in Lo-A, posting an on-base percentage heavy .443 OPS, but he showed signs of encouragement, including an 11.7% walk rate, 15% strikeout rate and a 19.5% hit rate on balls in play, which is extremely low. It was also an extremely small sample (60 plate appearances). In a much larger sample at Great Lakes (310 PA), Pederson posted a .353/.429/.568 triple-slash with an 11.6% walk rate and a 17.4% strikeout rate. The improvement was driven by an unsustainable hit rate on balls in play of 41.3%. However, I would again point to encouraging peripherals as well as a .213 IsoP as strong markers of success.
That leads us to 2012, where Pederson earned a surprising promotion to Rancho Cucamonga of the Hi-A California League. I typically don’t support jumping a level without mastering it, but perhaps the Dodgers saw something atypical in Pederson’s development. Either way, he’s certainly demonstrated reason for the promotion to date: in just over 100 plate appearances, he’s hitting .291/.376/.372 with a walk rate of 9.9% and a strikeout rate of 17.8%. His Isolated Power is just .081, but the fact that Pederson is even holding his own against competition that is two-three years older than him is extremely encouraging.
Pederson’s never going to have the tools or attributes that draw the attention of mainstream prospect evaluators because he doesn’t have 30 homer power, 50 stolen base speed or gaudy center field defense skills. Three things appeal to me, however: first, and simplest, he’s left-handed. 70-75% of his plate appearances will come against his strong-side platoon. His splits are actually trending the opposite direction this year, but it’s a small sample and I’d bet over the long haul that he hits right-handed pitching better than left-handed pitching. Second, his strikeout rate has been consistently sound across three levels. It’s up at Hi-A, which is understandable, but it is still more than acceptable at this level. Third, he could repeat his current level in 2013 and still be young for the level, so an even league-average performance represents a huge boost in his stock to me. There are plenty of more well-regarded types struggling at lower levels while being older than Joc.
It’s a fair question to wonder about Pederson’s ultimate ceiling, since he’s not a traditional corner guy from a power perspective but cannot play center at the major league level. In rebuttal, I simply see far too many players succeeding while being non-traditional to worry much about it. Couple that with the fact that Pederson showed a respectable IsoP in his rookie ball campaign in 2011 and that power is typically the last thing to develop and I really don’t have much concern about him, though if/when his power spike comes he could potentially rocket up rankings.