PHOENIX – A center fielder from Triple-A Oklahoma City will be joining the Dodgers in San Diego when rosters expand this weekend.
And it won’t be Joc Pederson.
Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers’ top-rated position player prospect and the 28th-rated prospect in the minors overall, will be one of the team’s first September call-ups. Pederson, who has played as much left field as center field since being demoted to Triple-A, will not. Pederson is likely to join the Dodgers after the Triple-A season ends next week when another wave of call-ups is expected.
One of the youngest position players in Triple-A this year, Verdugo, 21, was also one of the Pacific Coast League’s better hitters, batting .314 with a .389 on-base percentage.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed Verdugo will join the team in San Diego but wouldn’t be specific about his plans regarding playing time for the young outfielder.
“We’re going to play him,” Roberts said. “I do want to see Alex take at-bats and get out there.”
The Dodgers do not have the same curiosity level with Pederson who has hit .167 (6 for 36) with one extra-base hit (a double) in nine games for OKC since being demoted. Six of those games have been in left field, not center field. All 322 of Pederson’s big-league starts with the Dodgers came in center field. Like his offense, though, Pederson’s defense in center field (particularly his range) has regressed this season. Chris Taylor never played center field before this spring but he and Kike’ Hernandez both rate higher defensively in center field than Pederson.
“We want all of these guys to be able to play multiple positions,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi of the move for Pederson. “I can imagine certain configurations where it makes sense to have him playing there, others where he’s playing center. We just want him to be at least comfortable playing both when he comes back.
“We still see him as a center fielder. … I think generally when guys get optioned, they can sort of work on different positions without the spotlight of being here.”
Zaidi indicated Pederson will indeed return to the Dodgers in September but a spot on the post-season roster seems far from certain. Though Granderson had just five hits in his first 40 at-bats with the Dodgers, four of those hits were home runs and he also has nine walks. Pederson, meanwhile, has made some progress in the swing adjustments he began to make before being sent down.
“To kind of build on…