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5 reasons to root for Pederson in Derby

@SlangsOnSports
July 6, 2019

The Dodgers’ offense has been nearly unstoppable this year, and MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has led the way. But he’s by no means the only Dodgers slugger having a great season. The Dodgers already have three players with 20 or more homers, and one of them is Joc Pederson. Pederson

The Dodgers’ offense has been nearly unstoppable this year, and MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has led the way. But he’s by no means the only Dodgers slugger having a great season. The Dodgers already have three players with 20 or more homers, and one of them is Joc Pederson.

Pederson is no stranger to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby. He competed as a rookie in 2015, making it all the way to the finals before losing to the hometown Reds’ Todd Frazier.

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With how well he performed in that Derby, it always felt like we might see him in another someday, and Pederson will take on Alex Bregman in the first round this year.

T-Mobile Home Run Derby: Monday, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Here are five reasons to root for Pederson in the Home Run Derby.

1) He has experience

Pederson and his first-round opponent Bregman are the only participants in this year’s Home Run Derby with prior experience in the event. And Pederson has an edge over Bregman in the depth of that experience -- he’s the only participant in this year’s Derby to have made it out of the first round. Bregman lost to Kyle Schwarber in the first round last year.

Not only did Pederson make it out of the first round in 2015, he made it all the way to the finals. He hit a combined 39 homers, which was actually the same overall total as Frazier -- Frazier just had one more in the final round, while Pederson had more in the first two rounds combined.

Pederson was just a rookie, and at the time no rookie had ever won the Derby (Aaron Judge went on to do that in 2017). He just needed some seasoning, and he got it.

The other thing about his experience? It was in Cincinnati, Ohio. This year’s Derby? That would be Cleveland, Ohio. Perhaps Ohio is his state.

2) A Dodger is due

The franchise-related nugget that Pederson is tasked with changing is the same one from when he competed 2015. It’s what we mentioned for Corey Seager in 2016, Bellinger in 2017 and Max Muncy in 2018 -- the Dodgers have never had a Home Run Derby winner, despite ample participants. In fact, a Dodgers player has participated in each Derby since 2014.

And still, no winners. Pederson in 2015 is the only Dodgers player to even make it to the finals, and one of just three to make it out of the first round (Bellinger and Muncy each lost in the semis).

The Dodgers are no strangers to championship rounds lately -- they’ve made it to the World Series in each of the last two seasons. Maybe Pederson will break through here in July, then the team itself will do the same in the championship round in October. It seems like they’re due.

3) He can crush home runs far, and hit them hard. Seems like a good recipe

As a rookie, Pederson hit two homers that went more than 470 feet each (477 and 472), one in each of two games of a doubleheader in Colorado in 2015. Those remain the Dodgers' two longest home runs since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

Hitting long home runs is an advantage in the Derby, as players are awarded 30 seconds of bonus time for two 440-foot homers. He has one home run that went at least that far this year, a 445-footer on May 31 against the Phillies that was his longest of the season. And even though that’s his only 440-ft home run, his track record tells us that he’s certainly capable. He’s hit 10 homers that far in his career, including the aforementioned 470-plus ones.

He also has four of the Dodgers’ six hardest-hit homers tracked by Statcast, including the second and third hardest-hit. He hit one 113.7 mph on May 10 against the Nationals. Not too shabby.

4) He can choose his pitcher

Pederson is a lefty with some pretty typical splits, and they’re extreme. He hits righties a lot, and lefties not quite as much. All 20 of his homers this season have come against righties. And since the start of 2016, 78 of his 81 home runs have been against righties, though of course he hasn’t faced too many lefties, with the Dodgers aware of this phenomenon. No hitter with at least 50 homers in that span has hit a higher percentage of his homers against righties than Pederson (96.3%).

The great thing about the Derby? Pederson can pick his pitcher, and it stands to reason he’ll pick a righty.

5) His brother, Champ

Pederson’s older brother Champ, who was born with Down syndrome and has a practically unbreakable spirit, has been there for all of the big moments in Joc’s career. Joc has helped raise money for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit that seeks out and creates opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.

When Joc competed in 2015, Champ was there to cheer him on. Pederson defeated Albert Pujols in the semis, and Champ got a big hug from Pujols that night. The two have a connection as Pujols' daughter Isabella was also born with Down syndrome.

Champ's energy was palpable, and his excitement for his brother last time around was unmatched, all the way through the final round. Imagine if Joc wins it all this year?

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.