Joc Pederson is thrilled to be in Arizona. You can see it on his face. Forget your kid that just got his first bicycle or your wife after seeing that diamond wedding ring. Joc’s face: that is the essence of joy and happiness.
Joc Pederson is also extravagant. He wore a pearl necklace during the Braves’ World Series win that looked better on him than on my grandma. He has also thrown peroxide in his hair and now looks like he could beat Michael Keaton for the best Beetlejuice performance.
He also had beef with Tommy Pham about some Football Fantasy League that got the latter a 3-game suspension when he slapped Pederson in the face before a Giants-Reds game.
He was also a stinky Dodger, but not really that stinky at all as he danced on the 2010 World Series’ Parade when his childhood team San Francisco Giants won it all and he had just signed a professional contract with the Dodgers. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that part, right?
But that, just like the stats, is what we see from Pederson on the outside. Is there more?
Joc Pederson was born on April 21 in Palo Alto, California. That is a fine date, one day before my birthday. He grew up in a steady family, with his dad, Stu Peterson, who had a stint in the MLB with the Dodgers in the 80s, coaching his Little League team. Little Joc is hardly a standout, as his father recalls, but becomes a successful sportsman at his high school and major league scouts head out en masse to see Joc in the Bay Area.
He was drafted in the loaded 2010 MLB amateur draft (the one where every franchise seems to have snagged a superstar except for the Diamondbacks), in the 11th round out of Palo Alto High School. The Dodgers went deeper into their pockets to lure Pederson away from his college commitment to USC and offered $600,000.
The decision to forego college wasn’t that hard for Joc Pederson, he basically knew from the beginning that he wanted to go pro if offered the opportunity.
“A pro would be that I would get a lot better,” Pederson said. “I would get to play every day and I would be in the line-up every day no matter what if I went pro. But if I missed college I would miss the college atmosphere and all the life that encompasses that, like all the hot girls at USC. But if I want to live out my dream there are a lot more pros to playing professionally straight out of high school rather than out of college. But I wouldn’t be mad if I went to college first because it would be a great experience so it’s nothing to look down upon.” - Joc Pederson on foregoing college, in an interview for the local high school paper in June 2010
Pederson was a great baseball player at high school, but also did rather well as a football player, where he played together with NFL’er Davante Adams.
“He’s just naturally gifted,” Witte said. “No one can lock him down at receiver and he can shut down anyone at cornerback. He could probably start at quarterback for half the teams in our league if he wanted to.” - Palo Alto’s football coach on Joc Pederson’s performance on the high school football team, in an interview for the local high school paper in June 2010
You’d wonder whether Pederson and his family had any doubt about playing football or baseball in college, or maybe both, but that definitely wasn’t the case.
“I’m not going to walk on at USC,” Pederson said. “If I would have gone to Oregon or Oregon State I probably would’ve played both, but at USC, their football is too good. Oregon runs an offense that has six wide receivers and USC runs one that has two and USC has the number one and number two rated wide receivers coming in as freshmen this year, so that’s how I made my decision to just focus on baseball.” - Joc Pederson on his decision to not commit to football at college, in an interview for the local high school paper in June 2010
It is pretty amazing how serene Joc Pederson sounds like at such a young age, not spinning his head around too much. It is probably something the scouts like about him as well, as he continues to impress during his high school in front of legionnaires of scouts.
“There’s been a scout at every single game,” Joc Pederson (’10) said. “The number ranges from one to twenty five.” [...] “I really have to give Joc credit on how well he has handled all of the scouts being at our game this year,” Raich said. “For him to be scrutinized on everything he does on the field and then perform the way he has is a true testament to him.” - Joc Pederson and his baseball coach Raich on performing in front of MLB scouts, in an interview for the local high school paper in June 2010
As it turned out, the 2010 draft wasn’t great for the Diamondbacks, nor was it for the Dodgers. Looking back, Pederson was the only Dodgers’ draftee from 2010 that became successful. Initially to have thought to be looking for a 7-figure bonus, Pederson drops to the 11th round and eventually signs for $600,000 after returning from the Hawaii Collegiate Baseball League where he played for the Waimea Waves with his brother. The bonus is way less than predicted, but still the highest bonus the Dodgers hand out in that 2010 draft. The decision to go pro for less money than expected is made easier when the USC head baseball coach who recruited him is sacked during the summer, right before Joc has to make his decision to either go to college or not.
Joc Pederson is a 2010 OF/P with a 6’1’’, 170 lb. frame from Palo Alto, CA who attends Palo Alto. Thin lanky athletic body, long through hitting zone, open stance, good bat speed, good extension, takes hands to ball well, good arm speed, long loose arm action, good body control, good footwork and soft hands, fast arm, fast runner, low 3/4 arm slot, very relaxed on mound, quick arm, throws across body some, good action on CH, late run on FB, balanced delivery, Top Prospect. - 2010 draft report of Joc Pederson on Perfect Game
Top prospect? Maybe, but after spending some time at Spring Training camp where he gets 2 at bats, Pederson struggles mightily at Class A and is reassigned to the Rookie leagues. At 19 years of age he was simply outmatched, but he was warned about that.
“The sky is the limit for Joc and the future,” Raich said. “He has all of the ability to play professional baseball and even Major League Baseball. As long as he continues to work to get better everyday I don’t see why he wouldn’t make it. He is by far the best high school player I have ever coached, but at the next level everyone is extremely good and the players who continue to stay at it and work everyday at getting better are the one’s who ultimately make it.” - Baseball coach Raich on Joc Pederson and his possible career, in an interview for the local high school paper in June 2010
It is something he probably isn’t afraid of doing, as he knows things aren’t granted.
“He wants to be like us. He can’t. But we don’t look at what he can’t do. It’s not an option. I know things are harder for him. So I try not to take things for granted. It’s a good reminder. We’re special. But, he’s special, too. Everyone’s special.” - Joc Pederson talking about his older brother Champ, who has Down syndrome, quoted in an article on Yahoo Sports in 2013
How can Joc Pederson overcome these struggles in his first season? By working. Something he is quite familiar with.
“As I coach, I had three rules: Be on time, give one-hundred percent, be a good teammate. All my players knew that I didn’t care about wins, strikeouts, or missed groundballs. Baseball is all about development, and I don’t just mean within the sport.” - Stu Pederson, Joc Pederson’s father, about his coaching style in an interview for the littleleague.org in 2016
“His work ethic is unmatched,” Witte said. “No one at Paly even comes close to how hard he works at sports. He knows that he’s going to have a career in baseball and he knows how much it takes to get to where he wants to be.” - Palo Alto Baseball and high school teammate Scott Witte on Joc Pederson, quoted in an article on the local high school paper in June 2010
It is incredible how Pederson is able to turn things around in the Pioneer League as he comes to demolish opposition. It says a lot about how Pederson views his demotion in 2011:
“Being sent down was the best thing that happened to me” - Joc Pederson as quoted from an article from Dodgers’ beat writer Todd Gurnick in 2012, quoted in an article on truebluela.com in 2015.
Key for his slugging success from then on is minor league hitting coach Johnny Washington, in 2012 just 28 years old.
“Johnny showed me how to keep my body out of the way of my swing and now it’s repeatable and consistent. His approach of going through the middle got me to stay on balls longer and it gives me more power to all parts of the field. He took me into the video room and showed me how big leaguers do it. I had a misconception of what I was doing. We looked a lot at Robinson Cano and my favorite hitter is Carlos Gonzalez and we looked at him. They were doing exactly what Johnny said I should do.” - Joc Pederson as quoted from an article from Dodgers’ beat writer Todd Gurnick in 2012, quoted in an article on truebluela.com in 2015.
After that, Pederson skyrockets through the minor league system. In 2012 he plays at A+ and hits for a .913 OPS. By the end of the season FanGraphs includes him in their Top 15 prospects of the Dodgers, at #9, although they are still not very convinced about the potential, mentioning the “ceiling of an average big league corner outfielder”.
But Pederson keeps delivering, in 2013 at AA and in 2014 at AAA, achieving 30 homeruns and 30 stolen bases in the Pacific Coast League, which might sound peanuts in the PCL, but he was the first player in 50 years to achieve it. Come September he gets his first call-up to the MLB and debuts for the Dodgers. He ends the season at the top of the farm ranking, either behind or ahead of Corey Seager and Julio Urias.
After that, all is history: he gets his first All Star nod in his 2015 rookie season. He also participates in the Home run derby, something he would repeat in 2017 (with Johnny Washington being the tosser).
He “wins” a certain World Series* with the Dodgers in 2020, but wins the real one a year later with the Braves after being traded by the Cubs mid-season.
In 2022 he chooses to sign with his childhood team the San Francisco Giants and returns after accepting a Qualifying Offer in 2023.
And now he is a Diamondback and building a home in Arizona. He good?
“To sit back and say “I’m good” Not really. There is always someone out there who is maybe a little better than you or is working harder than you. Especially in baseball, there is always someone trying to take your job. There are always little adjustments to make. You are never too good; there is always room to keep improving.” - Joc Pederson about the importance to continue training, in a short Q&A on a blog in 2015