There have been few negatives to this magical 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers season. Most players are having huge years and playing key roles in the team being within striking distance of the all-time MLB record for wins. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about fan favorite and third-year slugger Joc Pederson.
Pederson has struggled through a couple of injuries this season, which may be contributing to his .214/.329/.744 slash line and lack of pop (11 homers, 32 RBIs) — all career lows. Until this season, Pederson was known for his power (51 homers in his first two seasons combined) and patience, and the strikeouts were just a side effect. This season, everything is down: strikeouts, walks, on-base percentage, power numbers, OPS, defensive abilities … it’s ugly.
So, for a 25-year-old who seemed to be trending up last season, what does this mean? Does Pederson have a future in L.A.?
This question is a lot more legitimate thanks to the rise of Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor. Both players have taken to the outfield extremely well, and both are many, many times more valuable offensively than Pederson this season. In fact, both players are hitting for numbers that Pederson has never approached in his career.
To be fair to Pederson, he has had to deal with a strained groin early in the season and a massive collision with Yasiel Puig that left him on the seven-day concussion DL and with a stiff neck. Though those aren’t necessarily major injuries, they’re the type of things that can linger for an athletic guy the likes of Pederson. If he’s not feeling 100 percent, it may be why he’s struggling at the plate and in the outfield.
But more concerning is the big drop off in numbers the Dodgers have seen compared to 2016, when it seemed like Pederson was adjusting his approach and turning a corner. In 2017, he hasn’t been able to find a rhythm with his bat and has struggled more than usual defensively. Overall, Pederson has been worth -0.4 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference.com) in 86 games.
The Dodgers have no shortage of options to replace Pederson in center field, should they choose to do so. Bellinger and Taylor can both play the outfield, Andrew Toles will be back next season and Trayce Thompson has proven himself capable. Kiké Hernandez has had a resurgent year, and Alex Verdugo is the “next big thing” in the minors.
Of course, Pederson has lost a lot of trade value and is making less than $1 million while he’s under team control before hitting arbitration. The Dodgers know they have an incredible talent on their hands, they just have to get his mechanics and his head right. In the minors, Pederson went 30/30 and has shown flashes of being a 30-homer guy in the big leagues.
They might as well hang on to Pederson — even if he’s coming off the bench — and try to fix him. The Dodgers have been successful in the past with reclamation projects (see: Puig, Yasiel this season), and they like Pederson’s presence in the clubhouse.
Though Pederson’s future is murky in L.A., he’s well-liked (and talented) enough to be given the benefit of the doubt for now. The Dodgers may not want to keep starting him in center in important games, but having that left-handed power threat off the bench down the stretch would be a nice bonus.
And then, as soon as the offseason begins, they can start the process of transforming Pederson back into the healthy, productive, promising player he once was.