Plenty of questions awaited Joc Pederson going into 2016, as the young outfielder had walked and homered his way into the 2015 All-Star Game, then struggled mightily in the second half. He acquitted himself well during his 2016 campaign, improving his contact rate from 66.7 percent to 75 percent. The latter figure is still below league average, but the Dodgers will certainly take it when bundled with Pederson's raw power. The improved contact led to fewer walks, but the extra hits made the change a net positive to his on-base percentage, along with improvements to batting average and slugging percentage. The Dodgers limited his exposure to lefties, as 399 of his 476 plate appearances came against right-handers. They could continue to do so in 2017, by platooning him with Trayce Thompson or Enrique Hernandez. Still, Pederson's power still gives him significant value, especially in leagues that use OBP in place of batting average.
Pederson went 1-for-3 with a solo homer -- his third of the spring -- in Wednesday's loss to the Brewers. Pederson's home run puts him in a tie for the most home runs hit in spring training so far. This should come as no surprise when you consider his .847 slugging percentage last season was second among all Dodgers, only trailing their young phenom shortstop, Corey Seager. Pederson hit 25 homers in 137 games as a strict platoon player. This year, manager Dave Roberts said Pederson will get more at-bats against lefties. With more plate appearances, the potential for reaching the 30-homer mark becomes a reality for the 24-year-old.
Pederson went 1-for-3 with his first home run of the spring -- a three-run shot -- in Wednesday's win over the Giants. The home run was also the centerfielder's first hit in Cactus League action. Pederson has a starting job locked down, so he will just look to get his bat going heading into the regular season. While his job is secure, his spot in the batting order is not. Manager Dave Roberts mentioned Pederson as one of several options that could be used as a leadoff man this season. Pederson's combination of on-base percentage (.352) and power (.495) make him a candidate to bat anywhere in the order. If he ends up batting atop the Dodgers lineup, then his potential for runs goes up while his RBI chances will decrease. The inverse can be said if he lands in the heart of the rotation. Wherever he lands, Pederson will be a good bet for 25 homers and a strong on-base percentage.
Pederson was named as one of several options manager Dave Roberts is considering batting leadoff, according to SB Nation. Logan Forsythe makes the most sense and has to be the early favorite to bat leadoff most nights, but Pederson isn't a terrible option despite his slugging ways. His .246 batting average in 2016 doesn't scream "leadoff hitter," but he did get on base at a .352 clip, which is top-of-the-order material. That being said, it would be surprising if Roberts moved Pederson's .847 OPS out of the heart of the lineup.
Pederson is expected to be the Dodgers' everyday centerfielder this season, the Los Angeles Times reports. Despite batting just .246, Pederson showed improvements at the plate in his sophomore season. He flashed more power (.495 slugging percentage and .249 isolated power rating) while maintaining his solid on-base skills (.352 on-base percentage). While the numbers don't show it (.125 with one homer in 77 plate appearances against left-handers), manager Dave Roberts was impressed with Pederson's improvements against southpaws last season. Assuming good health, the young slugger should have no problem reaching the 25 home run mark for the third season in a row.
Pederson suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Giants, but it's not expected to impact his availability for the NLDS, David Vassegh of AM 570 LA Sports reports. Pederson stayed in the game Sunday, indicating the issue may not be overly serious. Still, this is a situation worth monitoring as the week progresses to ensure he's healthy for Game 1 against the Nationals.