Since making his MLB debut as a September call-up in 2014, Joc Pederson has been a key member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and their success over the past couple of seasons. The Dodgers originally drafted Pederson in the 11th round of 2010 MLB Draft and despite the late selection, he quickly rose through the minors.
Pederson’s first full season was a memorable one with the Dodgers fully investing in their prospect by trading Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres during the Winter Meetings. With the opportunity to play everyday, Pederson showcased his power and earned a start in the 2015 All-Star Game and reached the finals of the Home Run Derby.
Although he struggled during the second half of the season, Pederson bounced back by showing more consistency in 2016 and had a solid sophomore campaign slashing .246/.352/.495 with 25 home runs and 68 runs batted in. As for his 2017, the center fielder has again found his groove since returning from the disabled list in mid-June.
In fact, Pederson is far from the only Dodger playing well with the team finishing July with the best record in the majors and getting contributions from just about everyone on the roster. Team success is nothing new for the Dodgers who have won four straight division titles. When comparing the 2017 team to those of the past, Pederson did feel a slight difference.
“We have something special going,” Pederson told Dodgers Index at a meet and greet hosted by Mizzen+Main at Nordstrom Del Amo Fashion Center. “Everyone is picking each other up and no one feels like they need to do it all themselves. It’s a great feeling, and I think it’s going to be a fun year.”
Entering August, the Dodgers were 43 games over .500 after sweeping the San Francisco Giants in dramatic fashion. Two of three games saw the Dodgers come back from deficits including a walk-off double from Kyle Farmer in his first ever major league at-bat during the series finale. Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger led the team’s bats in the other two victories as they have done all season. Pederson has had a front row seat watching the duo and offered praise for the young stars.
“They’re amazing players and it’s fun to watch them play on an everyday basis and see their talent on the field everyday,” Pederson said. “It’s a special thing and like I said, some days if one person doesn’t do it, the next person picks them up. That’s what great teams do.”
Despite the recent success, the Dodgers remain focused on reaching and winning the World Series for the first time since 1988. Manager Dave Roberts took the team to the NLCS during his first year in 2016 but fell to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs in six games. With the Dodgers playing as strong as they have, another deep playoff run is highly probable and Pederson could see the team’s regular season play and mindset paying dividends in October.
“Come playoff time, you’re going to face great pitchers,” Pederson commented. “You got to grind it out and find a way to score some runs and let your bullpen take over. They’re going to be close ballgames and you need to play good baseball.”
Roberts instilled a grit within the Dodgers dating back to last season. Despite setting a record with 28 players — including Clayton Kershaw — spending time on the disabled list, the team clawed their way into the playoffs. The same mentality seemingly carried over into the magical start the Dodgers have been experiencing thus far into 2017.
Not wanting to put the impressive run to waste, the Dodgers front office worked at the non-waiver trade deadline and added three arms to their pitching staff. Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani come in to bolster the bullpen, but the acquisition of Yu Darvish gives the Dodgers a scary rotation during the postseason.
On paper, the moves should strengthen the team’s chances in October which should please the fans who have been disappointed over the shortcomings during the last couple seasons. Fans have been throwing their support towards the Dodgers despite the majority of Southern California unable to watch games on television. The Dodgers have led the league in attendance over the past four years with Pederson believing fan support to be just another strength for the team.
“We’re going to need [the fans] along the road and in the playoffs,” Pederson said.” Come out and support us. We appreciate it and it doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Pederson and the Dodgers still have a long way to go until the playoffs begin as two months of regular season baseball remain on the schedule. If the first four have been any indication, the upcoming three months have the makings to be something special for Los Angeles.