At Sloan Park in Mesa, the Chicago Cubs are cranking up the Joc Jams this spring.
No, not those ‘Jock Jams’ but rather an early offensive power display from new outfielder Joc Pederson. The longtime Dodgers slugger, who is betting on himself on a one-year deal with Chicago, has wasted no time in getting acclimated to his new club this spring.
With a double and his third home run of the spring on Tuesday, Pederson is now batting .429 on with a ridiculous 1.672 OPS through six Cactus League games. His three home runs and seven RBI lead all MLB players this spring training and he’s looking like a heart-of-the-order slugger after a week of action.
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The Cubs have allowed Pederson to go with the flow a little more than he got to with Los Angeles and, if the early returns are any indication, it was the right call. Like I said, he hasn’t just been Chicago’s best player – he’s arguably been the best offensive player in all of baseball this spring.
Now, there are going to be ups and downs from Pederson. A critical part of his season will be seeing how he fares against left-handers. Historically a platoon player with the Dodgers, Pederson will get to be an everyday player for the first time in his career in 2021.
Getting off to a strong start will certainly help Pederson earn some credit with fans who are sore over losing the man he’ll replace in left field, Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber, a former first-round pick of the Cubs and a hero back in the team’s 2016 World Series run, was non-tendered by Chicago at season’s end and wound up signing a one-year deal with Washington.
Two years ago, Pederson smacked a career-high 36 home runs for the Dodgers, while batting .229 with a .339 OBP. Last year, he ranked among the top four percent of big leaguers in terms of average exit velocity and among the top fifth or so in hard hit rate, despite putting up pretty pedestrian numbers.
It’s early and a lot can change with just about three weeks until Opening Day. But if Pederson can continue his high-power ways in the middle of the Cubs’ order, he’ll be a fan favorite in no time at all.