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Joc Pederson's power continues to blossom

DENVER -- The Los Angeles Dodgers knew Joc Pederson had power. They just didn’t know he had this much.

Pederson hit 33 home runs for Triple-A Albuquerque last season, but many of those long balls were launched at high altitude -- the Isotopes play at about the same elevation as the Colorado Rockies -- and there is, of course, an appreciable gap between pitching there and in the major leagues.

It turns out Pederson hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, he has picked up the power.

Not only has the hard-swinging rookie hit 15 home runs in the Dodgers’ first 51 games, a 162-game pace for 47, but he has hit them farther than anyone else in the major leagues, according to tracking by ESPN Stats & Information. Pederson launched a soaring, 467-foot home run that clanged off some seats way above the bullpens here in the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to the Rockies on Tuesday afternoon. The average distance of Pederson’s home runs is 426 feet, longest in the majors.

Lucas Duda has averaged 421 feet on his home runs and Giancarlo Stanton has averaged 420 feet, tied with Prince Fielder for third. Pederson is listed at 215 pounds. Each of those other guys weighs at least 240 pounds.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admits he is somewhat surprised at Pederson’s power so far, but he also expects him to improve as he learns the tendencies of the pitchers he is facing.

“I still think the best is yet to come for Joc,” Mattingly said. “That doesn’t mean he’s going to hit 60 homers or anything, but I think just the consistency of at-bats will get better and better.”

The knock on Pederson is strikeouts. He already has 63, including his first-inning strikeout when he tried to bunt for a hit with two strikes, and is on a 162-game pace for exactly 200. A year ago, people complained that he couldn’t hit lefties and he improved that skill, hitting .290 off them at Triple-A. Pederson became testy after Tuesday’s game when the Dodgers TV reporter Alanna Rizzo asked him to discuss his approach against left-handers. Tuesday’s home run came off Colorado lefty Jorge De La Rosa.

“You guys are the ones who say I can’t hit left-handed pitching,” Pederson said. “I hit them fine last year, so I guess you guys can tell me.”