- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2015

During the power outage delay in Friday night’s game between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, Clint Robinson and Joc Pederson conversed in center field.

“Just casual talking,” Robinson said.

This wasn’t simply a cup of coffee out of boredom. Rather, Robinson and Pederson had shared the field in 2014 with the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers‘ former Triple-A affiliate.

It is evident Pederson has already risen to national attention. He boasts an all-star appearance in his rookie season, along with being runner-up in the Home Run Derby. He’s also a top candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.

The 23-year-old posted a .303 batting average with 33 home runs and 78 RBI in 2014 with Albuquerque, however, many didn’t see that translating over to his rookie season in the big leagues. It’s no shock to Robinson.

“[This is] pretty much what I expected from him,” Robinson said. “He’s got a lot of power and talent and he’s showing that. The batting average doesn’t really show what he can do, but I’m sure he’s going through a learning curve, you know, being a rookie. I expect for him to get even better.”

Pederson has earned the spotlight, with his 20 home runs after the Dodgers‘ 5-0 victory over the Washington National on Sunday the most of any rookie. What’s even more impressive is Pederson’s RBI total. As a leadoff hitter, Pederson has driven in 40 runs, ranking third among rookies.

The Dodgers expected success from the Palo Alto, California native, but maybe not to this extent. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly knew his glove was ready, but his bat was the surprise.

“Offensively he’s been way better than we thought,” Mattingly said. “But the jumps that he gets on fly balls, he gets to them fairly easily, and you don’t see them on ESPN. That’s because he gets to balls easier than a lot of other guys. I think the biggest thing is how good he’s been in center.”

Pederson has totaled two errors on the season. In a position like center field, there’s more than enough ground to cover. He flashed his range Saturday by making a tumbling catch on a Tyler Moore line drive in the third inning.

One thing that worries Mattingly is Pederson’s contact hitting. Even with Pederson’s power, he has 112 strikeouts on the season, which is the most of any rookie.

“I think there’s a way,” Mattingly said when asked if Pederson can cut down on strikeouts. “I think we could do him a better service by giving him a better chance to put the ball in play and score a runner here and there. … I think there’s a misconception that all he does is swing as hard as he can. It may look like that, but it’s definitely not all he’s trying to do.”

Pederson participated in this year’s Home Run Derby, which has its positives — in terms of confidence — but can also lead to drawbacks. Many believe that the Home Run Derby can create problems with a player’s swing and approach at the plate.

Mattingly had no problem with Pederson’s involvement in the Derby.

“I don’t really believe it,” Mattingly said. “It’s the same thing as taking [batting practice]. What he was doing wasn’t any different than what he does on a daily basis.”

Although Pederson didn’t finish on top, he still had a great deal of support.
“I picked [Pederson] on Twitter before it even started,” Robinson said, when asked if he watched the Home Run Derby. “I said I was going out on a limb. I hit behind him in Albuquerque all last year, so I know what he’s capable of.”

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