We are now within the one month range of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. As we have mentioned so many times before, the team appears to stand pat for now, which the exception of a few relief pitchers.
Dodger fans sit and watch other teams acquiring players and those teams’ players celebrating all over social media. In some ways, it’s difficult to see the team that just beat yours in the World Series, the Houston Astros, go out and acquire another starting pitcher. Sure, Gerrit Cole isn’t what he used to be, but it sure got the Astros players excited and tweeting happy gifs.
I find myself staring to look negatively on our team, before I have to catch myself and realize that this basically is the same team that won 104 games last year. Aside from Brandon Morrow, there are no huge subtractions from it. The front office did replace Morrow with Scott Alexander. We don’t know if he will replicate what Morrow did, but we also don’t know if Morrow himself will be able to replicate his 2017 campaign. So fans (myself included) shouldn’t have any reason not to believe that the Dodgers couldn’t achieve that level of winning again in 2018.
So if the Dodgers are indeed standing pat, that would mean that there’s a good chance Joc Pederson will roaming center field. Going in to last season, that was a given. But Joc wasn’t hitting very well, and the emergence of Chris Taylor and his bat all but took the position away from him.
Pederson has never been great at the plate, but 2017 was especially a bad year for him. He was hitting just .215/.329/.418 with 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 87 games before he was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City in August. At the time, skipper Dave Roberts commented: “But I think where he’s at right now with a swing change, trying to get some consistency, in a major league setting, it’s really hard to perform without looking at the scoreboard and looking at your average.”
The work he put in at OKC paid off in October. He was only 1-for-5 in the NLCS after not even being on the NLDS roster, but in the World Series he slashed .333/.400/.944/1.344 with three home runs and two doubles. He still had eight strikeouts in that time, but that’s about what Joc is—a power hitter with a higher than average number of strikeouts.
Pederson’s best season at the plate came in 2016 when he went .246/.352/.495/.847 with 25 homers and 26 doubles. I don’t expect him to hit long term like he did in the World Series, but if he could get himself to a .250/.260 BA with 20 plus homers it would be a really good season for him offensively.
On the defensive side, he made only one error in 655-2/3 innings in center field. He did see some playing time in left, where he was errorless in 21 innings. His ability to play multiple outfield positions gives the Dodgers flexibility with the multiple outfielders they have.
Pederson just avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $2.6 million contract. He is said to be taking his offseason training very seriously, and working on coming into spring training in great shape.
In the end, it may come down to whether Taylor keeps going from his stellar 2017 season, or Joc shows that he has earned the right to reclaim his full time spot in center. I’m all for it, because competition for a position will only make the team better.
(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)