Is AAA/OKC where Dodger outfielders go to die?
Normally when a proven major league outfielder struggles and gets sent to AAA they blow back up and are quickly promoted back to the major leagues.
Case in point Keon Broxton of the Brewers was their starting CF for most of the season. In an extended slump, Broxton was sent to AAA on July 21st with an OPS of .725. which isn’t bad, however, he had just three hits in July giving him a July OPS of .310. Yup, that is .310. Broxton wasted no time in getting his swing together in AAA putting up an OPS north of 1.000 and thus, seven games later he was back playing CF for the Brewers. Broxton didn’t waste all his hitting at AAA, as he put up an OPS of .794 in August for the Brewers.
Or the 2016 version of Scott Schebler who was so bad at the start of 2016 he was demoted to AAA but crushed AAA and has hit 34 home runs since returning to the majors at the start of August 2016.
Or the 2016 version of Yasiel Puig. We all know what he did to AAA during his exile.
Joc Pederson did not go the Keon Broxton route.
Trayce Thompson did not go the Keon Broxton route.
Scott Van Slyke did not go the Keon Broxton route.
With varying degrees, all three struggled at the major league level and were sent to the minors to work on getting back on track. None of them did. They got worse.
Scott Van Slyke is now in the Cincinnati system and still struggling. SVS hasn’t had real major league success since 2015 but you’d think he would still destroy AAA pitching instead of looking like someone whose career is over. At best SVS was going to be a bench player who could hit left hand pitching. Those days may be behind him. It went to hell in a hand basket for SVS when Wade Miley was traded out of the NL Western Divison.
Trayce Thompson was so good in April/May of 2016 that no one was missing Andre Ethier. Eventually, Thompson cooled off in 2016 and then hurt his back. Working his way back from his back injury Thompson had little chance of making the 2017 roster but when he stopped hitting in AAA that put a damper on any chance. He got a few major league at-bats this year only because of some injuries, at no point had he earned any major league time in 2017 based on his production. We are now 339 at-bats into his 2017 season and he’s not getting any better. His August OPS was .699. In AAA. For a 26-year-old. Save to say, he is no Scott Schebler.
Joc Pederson is different than the others. Joc was supposed to be the Dodgers starting CF, and eventually, start getting at-bats against left hand pitching to cement his hold on being the everyday centerfielder. When he wasn’t hurt he has been the Dodgers starting CF since April of 2015 against almost all right-hand pitching. Even in 2017 he still had an OPS of over .800 when he was demoted to AAA. He struggled in April and ended the month with an OPS of only .662. He struggled more in May and ended the month with a cumulative OPS of .623. If Adrian Gonzalez had not been hurt it was very likely that he would have lost his job back in May but Bellinger was needed at 1st base and not the outfield. Joc got it together in June and put up an OPS of 1.149 moving his cumulative OPS north of .800. He followed that with a good July OPS of .878. At the end of the trading deadline, he looked cemented as the Dodger CF for the rest of the year. The team was winning at a breakneck pace and he was a big part of it. Until August showed up. In August Joc went 2 for 37 and the Dodgers decided not to wait for him to come out of the slump and traded for Curtis Granderson, moved Chris Taylor to CF and sent Joc to AAA to work on his swing. I’m not sure how that is working out. Joc ended his AAA season yesterday with a .548 OPS. For perspective, in 2014 in AAA, three years ago he had an OPS over 1.000. Of course that was in Alburqurque not Oklahoma but still. What the hell has happened to Joc? Depression? Can’t get into the new swing? Something more fundamental? Either way, after being the Dodger starting CF for 16 out of 18 months over the past three years, Joc will have no role for the Dodgers for the rest of 2017.
I’m not sure right now if Joc will even have a role in 2018. His time may have already come and gone for the Dodgers. Heading into 2018 he will no longer being fending off competitors for his job but actually trying to win his job back. From Chris Taylor. From Alex Verdugo. Or from some outside player whose name we don’t know yet. Plus, even more telling is that maybe the Dodgers don’t consider him a CF anymore. He only played CF four of the fourteen games he played in the outfield in OKC. In which case his competition might be the same two, plus Andrew Toles, plus any possible outsider they bring in.
Yup, the winter of 2017 is not going to be anything like the past two winters for Joc Pederson. I suspect he’ll be working his ass off, and I hope it pays off because good Joc was a fun baseball player to watch.
Damn, baseball is a tough game.
Unless your name is Clayton Kershaw