Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson, both of whom have been very instrumental in the Dodgers’ success in recent years, aren’t just facing roster consequences with regards to the playoffs, but they’re also conceivably playing for their upcoming contracts in 2020.
Despite delivering a key long ball in Friday night’s victory over the Rockies, the 28-year-old Pederson’s season has been ugly, as he’s currently hitting .191/.296/.415 over 109 plate appearances. Entering the year, many believed that he could fill the designated hitter role nicely—at least against righty pitching—but at this stage of the game, there are probably a handful of other players that might be better options, at least based on current streaks. And, while his defense isn’t necessarily horrible, there’s really not much that sets him apart from other outfielders on the roster.
AJ Pollock has indeed deserved the extended amount of time he’s seen in left field, as his .843 OPS ranks third on the club, trailing only Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, unless you count Will Smith, who still doesn’t have the league minimum ABs to qualify for the leaderboards. More importantly, Pollock has shown that he still has enough quickness for the required defensive range in center field.
Nevertheless, with Max Muncy seeing time at third base to cover for Justin Turner’s hamstring injury, Cody Bellinger has consequently been playing more at first base, which opens up an outfield spot for Pederson to prove his value, specifically against righty pitching.
Joc was never a batting average machine. His best season average wise was in 2019 when he hit .249/339/.538, but his 36 long balls and career-high .876 OPS that year made him one of the most valuable offensive assets on the team. Clubs across the league might look hard at that season when offering Joc a potential deal, even though he’s a career .187/.261/.306 career hitter against southpaw pitching.
Pederson was set to make $7.75 million this year (before adjustments), and he could demand somewhere near eight-0figures annually if he hits the free agent market this winter.
Hernandez is in a completely different situation, as his defensive skills—his arm, glove and range—alongside his ability to handle almost every position on the field, puts him in an elite class among all MLB utility men. Still, if the 29-year-old Hernandez showed a consistence presence offensively, he might be playing for an eight-figure yearly salary instead of one in the mid-seven figures. What’s more, the fact that he’s one of the streakiest hitters on the clubs doesn’t help his cause in the least.
After his monumental performance on opening day, Hernandez has not done much with the bat at all this year. Minus that 4-for-5 performance, he is hitting .189/.228/.316 over 101 PA, calculating to a paltry .544 OPS. He did go 2-for-4 in the team’s victory over Arizona on Thursday, which might be a sign that he could be beginning one of his signature hot streaks.
Another thing to consider is that Hernandez is a career .213 hitter in the playoffs, while Joc has performed a bit better—remembering the three long balls against the Astros in the 2017 World Series—with a .240 average. Regardless, with 28 roster spots available, both players still make reasonable cases to be included on the postseason roster.
Looking ahead, while it’s definitely tough to consider exactly what Andrew Friedman and his troops are thinking long term, my guess is that we’ll probably see just one of Pederson or Hernandez wearing Dodger Blue next season.
(Special thanks to our commenting crew regulars for today’s topic)