Alright folks, we need to have a talk about Joc Pederson. Late Saturday night, rumors began to circulate that the White Sox were in discussions with the Dodgers surrounding outfielder Joc Pederson. I was on the Joc Pederson to the southside bandwagon before it was cool and now it appears there is a real possibility that this may happen. But a funny thing has been going on in certain corners of #WhiteSoxTwitter since the rumors started swirling on Saturday night. There seems to be a very vocal contingent of people that seem to believe that the 26-year-old outfielder wouldn’t be a good addition for the club and that he, well isn’t a good player. This is really dumbfounding to me to say the least. If Joc Pederson were on the Sox in 2018, here’s where he would rank in a few categories (adjusted for players with at least 300 PAs):
-OBP – 3rd (.321)
-SLG – 1st (.522)
-OPS – 1st (.843)
-fWAR – 1st (2.7)
-wRC+- 1st (126)
-wOBA- 1st (.354)
-ISO- 1st (.273)
So, clearly Joc isn’t this bum that people think he is based on his .248 batting average. While we’re on this topic, STOP USING BATTING AVERAGE TO EVALUATE BASEBALL PLAYERS! Sorry, I had to get that out of my system. Boys and girls, it’s not 1960 anymore we have so many better metrics and data points to evaluate the quality of a player’s offensive production than this. I got into a discussion on this topic yesterday with a family member and I had to bite my tongue because it was just infuriating. People, you really need to be smarter than this in 2019. But alas, I saw several mentions of this on Twitter yesterday and I wanted to bang my head against a wall. Let’s take a moment now to look at the last 3 years of Joc’s offensive production and how it compares with league averages in certain statistical categories.
So as you can see above, Pederson is a player that gets on base at a clip that is above league average (while, yes, declining). This is a skill that the Pale Hose desperately need in an attempt to lengthen their lineup. Additionally, I saw a lot of people yapping that Joc is a strikeout machine and that the team doesn’t need another guy like that in the lineup. However, when you actually, ya know look at the data, he has been below league average in each of the last 2 seasons and has seen an overall decrease in this category each season.
Furthermore, the lefty slugger has performed well above league average in terms of OPS in 2 of the last 3 seasons. The 2017 season was a strange one for him as he saw a spike in his Pull % (48.5% vs. 43.5% for his career), and GB% (46.6% vs. 41.4% for his career). These factors were notable contributors to a career low .241 BABIP in 2017. However, those trends appeared to stabilize in 2018. One has to wonder if Joc’s work with recently hired Hitting Analytics Instructor, Matt Lisle helped contribute to this reversal in 2018. It also makes one wonder if Lisle’s hire is playing a factor in the Sox’s reported interest in Pederson.
There is also some more interesting data surrounding Pederson and the quality of his contact over the last 3 seasons:
|Exit Velocity||Rank||Hard Hit%|
As you see from the table above, Joc is truly elite in terms of his Exit Velocity numbers for all Major Leaguers. He ranked 32nd in the entire league in 2018, a mere .01 MPH behind the guy that ranked 30th. That 30th ranked player was some guy named, Mike Trout. I’ve heard he’s good but I’m still working to confirm. In all seriousness though, I’m not suggesting Joc Pederson is on the same overall level as Mike Trout, so before anyone accuses me of making that claim, I’m not. I’m simply using that as an illustration of the fact that when Joc Pederson makes contact with the ball, he makes contact with authority and does so at an elite level. This is hardly something you would see from a guy that is not a good player, as he has been portrayed to be by many in recent days.
It’s not all rosey with Pederson, however. There are some defensive concerns that we need to be aware of when talking about his skillset.
|2018||(-3) (187 innings)||4 (672 innings)|
|2017||(-12) (655 innings)||0 (21 innings)|
|2016||1 (1,032 innings)||0 (5 innings)|
The table above shows Pederson’s DRS in the two outfield spots he has played for the last 3 seasons. As we can see, his numbers in CF have really taken a nose dive since 2016. This gives me some pause to the idea of playing him regularly in center. However, as I mentioned in my piece back in July, perhaps the idea of leaving the cavernous outfield at Dodger Stadium for the much smaller ballpark at 35th/Shields will see an improvement to his defensive numbers.
Pederson graded out well in LF during the 2018 season with the Dodgers, however. For his career he has only played 21 innings in RF, so if acquired one has to wonder where he will ultimately be deployed. According to Statcast data, Pederson has graded out as a below average runner in terms of overall foot speed. So his contribution on the bases may not be as high as perception. The overall decline in foot speed looks to be a contributing factor to the issues adequately patrolling CF, as well.
One other area of caution for Pederson is his inability to hit LHP. For his career in 325 PAs against LHP, Pederson has a .583 OPS. Contrast that number with his career .842 OPS against RHP and it is clear that Pederson will need to have a RHH platoon partner. The good news about this is the American League Central doesn’t have an abundance of quality left handed starting pitchers, so this will allow Pederson to maximize PAs. Pairing him with Leury Garcia or, sigh, Adam Engel will prove to be beneficial for the Sox.
The moral of this story is that Joc Pederson is a good baseball player. He’s not a great baseball player, but he’s a good one. He’s not the type of player that is going to automatically vault the Sox to the top of the division but he will make them better. I firmly believe he would hit 30 homers playing at 35th/Shields in 2019. A wise man on Twitter, Joe Sheehan, has famously said “Ball go far, team go far.” Adding a player with Pederson’s skillset will certainly make the Sox a better team in 2019. Furthermore, he is the perfect bridge player for the Sox.
I have noted frequently that they need to improve their outfield if they are to win the American League Central in 2020, which I believe is the realistic opening of the window. Pederson would help the Sox in this area. He has 2 years of arbitration control and that aligns perfectly for the Sox as their outfield prospects, the Luis troika (Basabe, Robert, and Gonzalez), Micker Adolfo, and Steele Walker will not be ready in 2019 and may not be ready until mid to late 2020. Pederson would give them a professional hitter in the lineup consistently and would put them in a better position to score more runs while allowing the prospects to continue their development down on the farm.
We have one final thing we must discuss regarding this rumor. There has been a lot of talk surrounding the potential acquisition cost for the Sox. We’ve seen names like Carson Fulmer, Aaron Bummer and Bryce Bush bandied about going to the Dodgers. I’ve seen too many people already saying, “we can’t trade Bryce Bush, this is Fernando Tatis Jr. all over again.” Ok…STOP! Bush was a 33rd round lottery ticket, that mashed in Rookie Ball last year, yes, but that was Rookie Ball. There are concerns about Bush’s ability to stay at 3B long-term, as many believe he is ultimately destined to reside in an outfield corner. The greater point here is that people believe the Sox shouldn’t improve in the present at the expense of a 33rd round lottery ticket. This is bonkers to me. Could Bush turn out to be a good player, sure, but he spent the 2018 season in rookie ball and is probably ticketed for Kannapolis in 2019.
Many things can go wrong between now and the time he would potentially arrive on the South Side. If people are this up in arms about trading a lottery ticket for a solid Major League player, I would hate to see what is going to happen in July of next year should the Sox have to trade everyone’s favorite scrappy middle infielder that doesn’t strike out, in order to acquire a starting pitcher in an effort to win the division. Let’s not forget, the Cubs gave up a Top 10 prospect in all of baseball for Aroldis Chapman so that they could win the World Series. This is the cost of doing business, and I hate to break it to you people but at some point the Sox will have to trade a prospect that hurts if they want to have another flag flying at Guaranteed Rate Field.
All things considered, if the White Sox can get Joc Pederson they should do it. He will make them better in 2019 and 2020, and the acquisition cost shouldn’t be prohibitive. This is the type of move that gets the Sox closer to respectability and doesn’t serve as a roadblock to any significant prospects. He’s a good player. Don’t believe what you see on Twitter dot com.
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