If you thought the Los Angeles Dodgers would have a tough time filling the spot in center field vacated by Matt Kemp, you must not have known about Joc Pederson.
The 23-year-old phenom had been biding his time in the Dodgers’ minor league system since he was drafted by the team out of high school in 2010. A California native, Pederson rose through the minors quickly, hopping from Single-A to Triple-A in just two years. He became the second Dodgers minor leaguer ever to post two 20/20 seasons, and in 2014, he was named Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League after hitting .303 and leading the league in home runs, runs, walks and OPS.
He’s already drawn the interest of major brands aligned with the Major League, including New Era, the official cap of Major League Baseball.
The son of former major leaguer Stu Pederson, Joc got his first Opening Day start this year. Although it might have seemed risky to place a rookie in the outfield on a “win now” team like the Dodgers, whose roster features high-profile acquisitions like Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Greinke, Pederson immediately demonstrated that he was more than ready for the challenge. During spring training, he led the Dodgers in home runs, RBIs and runs scored.
Pederson has kept up his prolific output. He’s already into double digits in home runs, and he became the first Dodger since 1969 to homer in four consecutive games. He’s also shown amazing patience at the plate, currently ranking fourth in the MLB in walks.
On the defensive side, Pederson has already racked up three outfield assists as a center fielder, good for third in the National League. According to FanGraphs, his contributions have helped boost the Dodgers to fourth in the league in defense.
Like any young, blossoming power hitter, Pederson still has room to grow. But if the first two months of the season are an indication, the new era in the Dodgers’ outfield is going to be a great one.