A year later, Pederson feeling more settled

A year later, Pederson feeling more settled

WASHINGTON -- One glance at the numbers, and it's easy to deduce that the Dodgers will be getting a different version of Joc Pederson this October.

Their slugging center fielder entered the 2015 playoffs with a .637 OPS over the season's final month. With the '16 NLDS set to get underway in Washington on Friday night (5:30 p.m. ET/2:30 p.m. PT on FS1), that number is 444 points higher for Pederson this year.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

But the drastic uptick in his late-season performance only tells a part of the story.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was in San Diego last season, so he watched Pederson's rookie season from afar. But in the time Roberts has spent around his 24-year-old center fielder this year, he's already seen plenty of development.

"From the conversations that we've had all year long, I've seen Joc grow with his maturity," Roberts said. "The teammates -- Justin Turner, Chase Utley -- a lot of those guys have a lot to do with it.

"But the one thing that I get from Joc this year versus last year is he's a lot more comfortable in the clubhouse. And that's important. That's really important for any player, let alone a young player, to get the most out of their talent."

Pederson was on board with his skipper's assessment, adding that he feels he's in a good place mainly because the Dodgers, as a whole, are in a good place.

"We're in a really good spot, sticking together as a team," Pederson said. "No one thinks they have to do it all themselves. It's fun to be a part of. Dave Roberts has made a great environment for us. Everyone likes coming to the field and has each other's back."

The Dodgers will entrust plenty of responsibility to Pederson in the coming week. It appears as though the Nationals will start right-handers in four of five games, meaning Roberts and Co. will be looking to take full advantage of Pederson's .269/.371/.547 slash line against righties.

Pederson's RBI double

In the same vein, without Kiké Hernandez on the playoff roster, Pederson could very well start against Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez. He's certainly the best option defensively, despite his poor offensive splits.

It figures to be a stark contrast from the 2015 postseason, when Pederson received starts only in Games 1 and 5, going 0-for-4 with four walks.

"Each run means everything," said Pederson when asked what he learned from his first taste of the playoffs a year ago. "Getting on any way you can, saving a run on defense -- little things really make a difference. We've done so much preparation. Our coaches and staff have done everything to prepare and give us the most information possible to put us in a good position to succeed."

AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.