Joc Pederson is Due for a Breakout Season in 2017

It wasn’t long ago that Joc Pederson was considered the Dodgers top prospect. At only 21-years-old in 2013, Joc was not only the Dodgers #1 prospect, he also was ranked #44 in all of baseball. Pederson was even ranked above Corey Seager who came in #2 in the Dodgers organization and #48 overall.

The very next year, in 2014, he did see himself drop a couple spots on the Dodgers prospect list down to #3. However, that wasn’t because he got any worse, the Dodgers system was just that good. In fact, Pederson jumped drastically in the MLB rankings all the way up to #15 right behind fellow Dodgers Corey Seager and Julio Urias. He definitely did not disappoint that season.  Pederson became the first player in Pacific Coast League in 80 years, and the 4th all time, to hit 30 home runs and swipe 30 bases in the same season. He led the league in runs scored, home runs, walks, on-base percentage, and OPS. He was named the Pacific Coast League MVP and was named Baseball America’s AAA Player of the Year.

The next year, in 2015, Pederson saw his prospect ranking rise even further. Going into the 2015 season Pederson was ranked as the 8th best prospect in all of baseball. However, that prospect ranking didn’t last long as he was named the starting center fielder for the Dodgers following the conclusion of Spring Training.

Fast forward two years and Dodgers fans have been through some major ups and downs with Pederson. The first half of the 2015 season couldn’t have gone much better for Pederson. After a monstrous first half and being named to the All-Star Game, Pederson looked like he was on his way to a unanimous rookie of the year campaign and maybe even a top-5 MVP finish. However, the second half of the season couldn’t have gone much worse for Pederson. Following his amazing home run derby performance, Joc seemed to forget how to hit completely. He also seemed to lose all of the speed he once boasted in the minors.

Although he didn’t regain the pure power that he had in the first half of 2015, Pederson’s 2016 campaign was much smoother sailing overall. He clearly was experimenting with a few different batting stances during Spring Training and through the first month of the season, but once he figured out a stance that the liked, things got better. His overall numbers weren’t spectacular but he showed a consistency that simply wasn’t there in 2015. He had his ups and downs like any player does but he never went into the type of extended slump that he did the year before. He seemed to make adjustments when needed and came up clutch in some big spots.

So what can we expect from Joc in 2017? Will he return to his early 2015 success? Will he regress back to his late 2015 blunders? The safe answer would be to say that he will end up somewhere in the middle, that he will have more or less the same numbers as he did this year. Others might say that he will end up like a Adam Dunn, Chris Carter or Mark Reynolds, crushing the ball when he does make contact, but not making contact all that often. But I don’t believe either of those things.

The difference between Joc and those players is that Joc has shown the ability to get on base, even when he is slumping. Joc has struck out a lot in his first two years with the Dodgers, but he has also walked a lot and has started to put the ball in play much more often. In fact, Joc saw his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OBP all rise in 2016, all while watching his strikeout total drop by 40. The other reason, and possibly the biggest reason that I believe Joc will come back stronger than ever in 2017 is that he is still only 24-years-old. Given that he is entering his prime and that he has survived his “sophomore slump,” Joc is set up to have a breakout season in 2017.

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