We talk a lot about prospects around here. Beyond the guys who have seen time in Los Angeles already, we talk about pitchers Zach Lee, who might make his debut this season, and Matt Magill, who just did. Obviously, we can’t get enough of Yasiel Puig discussion around when he might be up. We talk about Corey Seager and hope that he can fill the never-ending hole at third base, even though he’s not likely to be ready until 2015-16, and beyond that, everyone has their favorite lottery ticket to dream on, whether it’s a Zachary Bird or a Darnell Sweeney or a Ross Stripling. People get attached to a prospect, and they never want to let them go. (I’m looking at you, Blake DeWitt, and now you, Scott Van Slyke.) It’s the way things work, and that’s normal.
Then there’s Joc Pederson, and he stands alone. The 2010 10th-round pick has done nothing but hit in the minors, being named the 2012 organizational hitter of the year as well as the Southern League’s player of the week for the period ending April 21. That day was also his 21st birthday, making him one of the younger players in Double-A, and for all the attention Puig is getting in Chattanooga, note that Pederson’s line (.301/.379/.614) along with five homers is very comparable to that of his more highly-touted teammate.
Coming off a .313/.396/.516 campaign in High-A Rancho Cucamonga with 18 homers and 26 steals, that performance is getting Pederson some notice — rightfully so. Still, depending on who you believe, Pederson is either a fourth outfielder or a solid prospect, with the most recent scouting reporting coming from FanGraphs earlier this month:
while toolsy, Pederson would ultimately probably lack the range for center and the power traditionally associated with corner outfielders — but that he might be useful as a regular, anyway.
That jives with what I said on the “Dugout Blues” podcast earlier this week with Jared Massey & Dustin Nosler, suggesting that he may be a “tweener”, probably lacking the glove for center but perhaps not having the offensive profile to stand out in a corner.
That’s not really the point here, though — what I also said on that podcast is that I’d be absolutely shocked if Pederson ever plays a big-league game in Dodger blue. Despite his accomplishments, Pederson finds himself in an odd situation. Obviously, the Dodger outfield is under contract from now until the end of time in Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, & Andre Ethier, yet at some point soon room is going to have to be made for Puig, assuming his recent driving arrest doesn’t set him back by too much. How exactly that’s going to happen, I do not know, but it’s going to require a major move on the part of Ned Colletti; if it’s that hard for the $42 million spring training legend to break in, then it’s doubly hard for the 10th-round pick.
But even moreso than that, we all know the Dodgers have trades to make this summer. They’ll need a shortstop, or a third baseman, or both. They might need another starting pitcher, second base may be an issue if Mark Ellis isn’t healthy, and we all know how Colletti loves to pick up relievers. Yet the farm has thinned out after last year’s trading spree, and that leaves his chips limited. Clearly, neither Puig nor Seager is going to be moved, and while neither Lee nor Magill should be considered untouchable, I imagine there’s some reticence to move more young starting pitching after seeing Rubby De La Rosa, Ethan Martin, and Allen Webster all head out last year. Sure, you could dangle Chris Reed or Garrett Gould, but how much value are they really going to bring back?
What you’re left with, then, is Pederson, and between the composition of the system and the roadblock ahead of him, he seems one of the most likely prospects to be used as a trade chip. Maybe that’ll put him in Phillies red or Padres navy, or in the colors of any one of a number of other teams. But what I really can’t see him in is Dodger blue, and while it’s not accurate to say “that’s sad” — obviously we have no idea what sort of deal might end up happening — it is a little melancholy. You get attached to a player coming up through the levels, and that’s normal, but there’s more than one way to extract value from a prospect. In this case, I’m betting that it’ll be via trade.