September 2, 2014
The Situation: The Dodgers, just 15-14 since the beginning of August, look for a spark from a much-hyped outfield prospect. It’s happened before.
Background: Pederson, a former 11th round pick, has been one of the most dynamic players in the minor leagues all season, going 30/30 and winning his league’s MVP award. While he might not have that ceiling in the major leagues, Pederson can hit the baseball with authority and, after starting the season as the Dodgers’ no. 3 prospect, moved up to no. 2 (behind Julio Urias) and no. 17 overall in our midseason top 50.
Scouting Report: Pederson is listed a solid 6-foot-1 and 185, but I would venture to guess (based on watching a couple games on TV) that he weighs a little a closer to 200 now. His stance is balanced with a nice leg kick for timing, and his swing features bat speed and plenty of loft, which should allow for 20-plus home runs once he gets regular playing time. His hit tool plays to about average--there’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, as seen by his 149 strikeouts in 553 plate appearances in Triple-A.
He might become a player who has the “three true outcomes” tag, as he also walked 100 times in those plate appearances. Expect a relatively high on-base percentage, with over-the-fence power verses both right-handers and left-handers.
His speed on the stopwatch is an average 50 grade, but he stole 30 bases this season, suggesting he is a very good baserunner. I asked a scout who he would prefer, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Pederson, and he said it was close but he’d choose Pederson. He thought he would become a better hitter in the long run. Another scout questioned his defense in center field, citing multiple defensive miscues in a single viewing. I would argue that his defense in center is better than anyone on the Dodgers’ current roster except for Puig. In any case, whether Pederson can play center or not (we’ll see in 2015), his bat will allow him to play in either corner, most likely settling in left field for the majority of his career.
Immediate Big League Future: If he plays well in his limited time in the majors this September, he might even get the opportunity to make the postseason roster instead of the struggling Andre Ethier, assuming the Dodgers make it that far. The ceiling is an all-star who can impact the game on both sides of the baseball. —Chris Rodriguez
Fantasy Impact: As exciting of a fantasy prospect as Pederson is long term, in the short term he offers very little of anything. With Matt Kemp (.301/.375/.548 since the All-Star break) and Carl Crawford (.361/.410/.417 in his past 23 games—yay, small samples) both playing well recently, there's just no place for Pederson to play in the Dodgers' crowded outfield. This might seem like a truly crazy statement for a player who has hit over .300 and joined the 30-30 club at Triple-A this year, but it's where we are right now. In fact, if he got more than two starts a week to spell the older guys, I'd be pretty surprised—though even in that limited time, he could still pop a homer or two and steal a handful of bases (potentially as a pinch-runner as well).
Of course, given the age and injury history of the Dodgers' outfield, there's always the chance that someone gets hurt in the next week or two and Pederson sees significant playing time (over Andre Ethier, who really hasn't done a whole lot of anything all season long) down the stretch. That possibility alone makes him worth rostering in NL-only and deep mixed leagues if you have a bench spot occupied by someone who isn't interesting in the least.
In dynasty leagues, this is an entirely different story, however. At the time of his call-up, he was one of the top 10 fantasy prospects left in the minor leagues, and his all-around potential is something that will get him drafted very highly in his prime. It's tough not to look at his profile and think of Shin-Soo Choo or Bobby Abreu from a statistical standpoint, the type of hitter who could produce multiple 20-20 seasons from the outfield position, while hitting for a helpful average (think .275 or so) and being even more dynamic in OBP formats. He needs to be owned in all dynasty leagues, and is a sneaky pickup in keeper formats where 200 or more players are kept, as it's certainly possible that the Dodgers could open up a spot for him in the outfield this offseason. —Bret Sayre
Chris Rodriguez is an author of Baseball Prospectus.