LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' worst kept secret of spring training has now been revealed, with Joc Pederson winning the center fielder job. The rookie is batting seventh and starting in center field on Monday against the Padres.
At 22 years, 350 days old, Pederson is the youngest Dodgers opening day starting center fielder since Willie Crawford (22 years, 212 days old) in 1969.
Pederson hit .303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs, 30 stolen bases, 100 walks and 106 run scored with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014, winning the Pacific Coast League MVP. Pederson put up the first 30/30 season in the PCL in 80 years, and entered 2015 ranked anywhere from the eighth to 28th-best prospect in baseball on various national lists.
This spring, Pederson hit .338/.377/.692 and led the team in home runs (six), RBI (13) and runs scored (14), though manager Don Mattingly at several points this spring said he would evaluate Pederson on more than just Cactus League stats.
"Joc has checked off all the boxes as far as we're concerned. The way he has been in the locker room has been good, the way he's preparing," Mattingly said on Tuesday. "We're not seeing him over-amped or anything. He's just been himself, and that's what we really wanted to be able to see."
Pederson started 20 games in center field this spring, 15 more games than any other Dodger, and played 114 total innings at the position, exactly twice as many as Chris Heisey, his closest competitor. Pederson also saw time during the spring in left field (one start, six innings) and designated hitter (two starts).
Perhaps the final seal of approval came on Friday night from Vin Scully, who upon watching Pederson track down a deep drive off the bat of Albert Pujols in the third inning said on the SportsNet LA broadcast, "That kid can sure play center field."