ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

How free agent signee Joc Pederson fits the 2024 Arizona Diamondbacks

Jan 26, 2024, 7:51 AM | Updated: 7:56 pm

Joc Pederson will provide the power bat the Arizona Diamondbacks have been looking for since re-signing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in December.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported that the D-backs and Pederson agreed to a deal on Thursday, and MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert added that the D-backs and Pederson agreed to a one-year deal for $9.5 million with a mutual option in 2025. The option is for $14 million with a $3 million buyout, per AZCentral’s Nick Piecoro.

Pederson is a familiar face at Chase Field, having spent most of his career in the National League West with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. He’s played 56 games at Chase Field and 115 overall against the Diamondbacks over the years, and he now adds a left-handed, middle-of-the-order hitter to a team looking to build off of last year’s postseason success.

He has clubbed 38 home runs with an .821 OPS over the past two years on the Giants and enters his age 32 season.

But will Pederson, who has notable platoon splits, be the everyday designated hitter or a weapon against righties in a division that has a lot of top-end right-handed pitchers?

Joc Pederson, the player

Pederson has, throughout his career, hit the baseball really hard.

He ranked No. 12 in MLB in hard-hit rate (52.2%) and No. 21 in exit velocity (92.1 mph) last season. His shots into McCovey Cove over the past couple years are mesmerizing to watch, and now he leaves one of baseball’s most pitcher-friendly parks. He uses an open stance and leg kick to stay inside the baseball.

His production took a dive from an All-Star 2022 season, although he was still a well-above-average offensive player in 2023.

2022: .274/.353/.521, 23 home runs, 70 RBIs, 146 OPS+ in 134 games
2023: .235/.348/.416, 15 home runs, 51 RBIs, 111 OPS+ in 121 games

He hit the ball on the ground more (12 double plays) and did not find as many holes with a .268 batting average on balls in play (.310 in 2022).

But the veteran’s .764 OPS would have ranked fifth on the 2023 Diamondbacks behind Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Gurriel. His strikeouts fell to 20.9% while his walk rate flew to 13.4%, his best since 2015.

The splits are dramatic, though, as his career OPS drops by 200 points against lefties (.622) versus righties (.834). Last year was similar, and the Giants largely kept him away from lefties (52 of 425 plate appearances).

Defensively, Pederson’s metrics in the outfielder are not pretty at minus-23 outs above average over the last three years. He was primarily a designated hitter last season. The good news, he joins a D-backs club with Carroll, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy, the “No Fly Zone” out there.

Pederson also has 154 innings of first base experience — not much but something to keep an eye on during spring training. Arizona’s backup first basemen behind Walker on the 40-man roster are Pavin Smith and Emmanuel Rivera, so Pederson working over there competently could add roster flexibility.

Pederson is a two-time All-Star and has a pair of World Series rings, having won with the Dodgers in 2020 and the Atlanta Braves in 2021. He’s had some monster postseason runs, especially the 2017 World Series in which he had a 1.344 OPS and three dingers in six games. He hit .400 in the 2020 World Series, which would have never happened had Angels owner Arte Moreno not pulled out of an agreed trade to acquire him.

Pederson’s fit with the Diamondbacks

The heart of the D-backs’ batting order is very right-handed heavy with Gabriel Moreno, Walker, Gurriel and Eugenio Suarez. Pederson provides a little balance with Carroll atop the order and Thomas yet to break out a consistent offensive campaign from the left side.

Against righties, the projected outlook of the lineup has cleared up, something along the lines of this, based on postseason:

OF Carroll
2B Marte
C Moreno
1B Walker
DH Pederson
OF Gurriel
3B Suarez
OF Thomas
SS Perdomo

… in some order.

That’s deeper than last year, makes it tougher on opposing managers to match up with and yet leaves off outfielder Jake McCarthy and top shortstop prospect Jordan Lawlar, who figures to work in at some capacity in 2024 after debuting last year, as depth.

The Diamondbacks will face division rivals loaded with right-handers. The Dodgers added Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow this offseason and will get Walker Buehler back from Tommy John surgery. The San Diego Padres have Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove atop the rotation. The Giants boast ace Logan Webb and All-Star Alex Cobb.

But what happens when the D-backs face a left-hander?

That’s where some other free agent DH options may have provided more balance. Right-handed sluggers Jorge Soler, J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner are still on the market, and none of them have platoon splits like Pederson. They’re better against lefties but still functional-to-good against righties, more neatly filling the Tommy Pham role but keeping the D-backs right-handed heavy.

Reality leaves the D-backs with some figuring out to do if they platoon.

Right-handed bats on the D-backs’ 40-man roster beyond the aforementioned projected lineup include Lawlar, Rivera and infield prospect Blaze Alexander. Jorge Barrosa is a switch-hitting outfield prospect — and terrific defender — who was on the postseason taxi squad.

The D-backs also signed right-handed infielder Kevin Newman and first baseman Andres Chaparro to minor league deals this offseason.

Newman has MLB success against southpaws with an .813 OPS in 110 plate appearances for the Cincinnati Reds last year and .837 OPS in 104 plate appearances during the 2022 campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Plus, he can play multiple infield positions, including third base.

Idea: Perdomo, Newman and Suarez start against lefties with either Suarez or Newman at DH to open the year.

Lawlar’s role will be something to watch all year. His limited MLB exposure did not go well for him offensively last season when Arizona released Nick Ahmed to try the youngster out down the stretch. Perdomo took over full-time in the postseason. Lawlar played 16 Triple-A games before getting called up, so whether he makes the team on Opening Day or goes back down for reps is one of the more pertinent questions of spring training.

Another idea: Lawlar, Perdomo, Suarez and Marte all start against lefties with either Marte or Suarez taking a breather on defense.

There are also the options of bringing in another external right-handed bat via trade or free agency.

It could be pretty fluid going into the year unless Pederson slots in every day, which gives us something to keep tabs on this spring.

Joc Pederson extras

– Pederson hit a little league home run against the Diamondbacks in 2022 at Oracle Park (it was ruled a triple).

– Also in 2022, Pederson was heckled during an eighth-inning at-bat against the Milwaukee Brewers and blasted a go-ahead home run. He turned right around to look at his hecklers before taking off.

– Pederson was on the receiving end of a Pham slap in 2022 over fantasy football beef. He had an eventful 2022.

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