Scouting Report: Dodgers Prospect Joc Pederson
This past season won’t be remembered as the Year of the Hitter in the Southern league. There were some fine position prospects that came through, but most were void of the “hit” tool. Off the top of my head, I can think of five, maybe six guys, that had an above average hit tool profile. During the regular season, Mariners prospect Nick Franklin was clearly the best hitter that I saw come through the league. With that said, I wasn’t as high as some on the Mariners future starting middle infielder. It wasn’t until the Southern league playoffs that I came across two hitters with a hitting ability comparable, or better, than Franklin’s. They were Mariners catching prospect Mike Zunino and Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson, who is the focus of this article.
Drafted in the 11th round out of high school by the Dodgers in 2010, Joc Pederson joined the Double A Chattanooga Lookouts for the first round of the Southern League playoffs after putting up a .313/.396/.516 line with Rancho Cucamonga of the California State League (High A). During the playoff series against Jackson, Pederson had three hits in eleven at bats, including a line drive triple down the right field line. The two games I watched Pederson play marked the first time in two years that I wanted to write a full scouting report on a player. It’s not that I didn’t like guys like Alfredo Silverio, Gorman “Griff” Erickson and Jake Lemmerman. I just didn’t think any of those guys had impactful potential written all over them. I know some will disagree about Silverio, who unfortunately missed the 2012 season due to injuries, but I was never enamored by his skill set. Anyway, back to Pederson. I saw a player, from first swing, that projected as a major league regular.
Pederson appeared in both contests as a centerfielder. He struggled in centerfield during both contests. While he has the speed that an organization would covet in centerfield, he lacked the reaction skills to project him as such. His first step was usually going in the wrong direction and his route running, while not Cubs prospect Jae-Hoon Ha bad, was pretty rough. Some examples include a flyball hit in the Left centerfield alley that Pederson took an indirect route to, ending up short of catching the ball on the track. There were also at least three catchable balls hit in front of him that he broke back on initially. In two of those three cases, he took more than one step back on the ball before racing towards the ball in a failed attempt to catch it. In the second game, he fielded a ground ball and threw home, over shooting the cutoff man and the catcher, tailing the ball half way up the screen behind the on deck circle. To be fair to Pederson, the game probably sped up on him a bit. While it was not evident at the plate, it was evident in the field. I think that throw was a result of Pederson rushing to catch up to the speed of the game. Unfortunately, that’s the one throw I have to judge him on. I expected to see an above average and accurate arm that I had read about before watching him play.
In the speed department, Pederson has above average wheels. I timed him home to third on the aforementioned triple just a shave under twelve seconds. What I liked most about his triple was how he cut second base, touching the inside corner as he was headed towards third. I didn’t get a good home-to-first time on him though and had no opportunities to time him on the base paths. A troubling stat out of the California league was his caught stealing rate. He was caught stealing at a 35% clip and I wanted to see what was causing it. A runner with above average speed shouldn’t be getting caught at that rate.
At the plate, there is not much to dislike. I liked his swing. I was told, earlier this year, his swing was a bit long. In the playoffs, I saw evidence of a bat capable of catching up to plus heat. One of the two hits I personally observed was a single on a fastball off of hard throwing Mariners super prospect Taijuan Walker.
Pederson is relaxed at the plate. His hands and wrists are loose; giving him flexibility to adjust to off speed pitches. As his wrists come through the zone, his bat head explodes through the ball. His swing is controlled and very fluid. With a good, strong base, Pederson generates good hip rotation and above average power. With a slight uppercut, his bat is primed to generate line drives. The power is there to hit for twenty plus homeruns in the big leagues. However, he should never be viewed as a home run hitter, since the product of his line drive swing will be conducive to lining the ball out of the ballpark. In other words, he will never be the type to hit mammoth homeruns. His hand/eye coordination is his single greatest asset. In a small sample, I saw a hitter with advanced pitch recognition skills and a great sense of the strike zone. While Pederson was overmatched a bit by Taijaun Walker’s off speed pitch, I think it was more good pitching beating good hitting than a guy unable to recognize the pitch.
I fully expect to see a lot of Joc Pederson next season since Chattanooga is my home ballpark in the Southern League. Realistically, and with expected development, he’s a season and a half to two seasons away from getting a taste of major league pitching. I project Pederson to become a solid .290-.300 Major League hitter, with the ability to get on base at a clip that would regularly rank him among the top 30 hitters in baseball, if not better. He will never be a perennial all star player but he should be a very capable first division starting corner outfielder.