The Braves added a proven veteran to their depleted outfield on Thursday night, acquiring Joc Pederson from the Cubs in exchange for minor league first baseman Bryce Ball:
Pederson, 29, brings some much-needed relief that has lost franchise cornerstone and starting right fielder Ronald Acuña for the season with a torn ACL, has likely lost left fielder Marcell Ozuna for the year due to a hand injury and a domestic violence incident that has left his future in baseball in doubt, and has gotten virtually nothing out of projected starting center fielder Cristian Pache, who is now in Triple-A.
Pederson, a .230/.332/.465 career hitter who was a key cog for the powerhouse Dodgers over the last decade, is expected to play mostly right field in Atlanta. He’s only played 57 games in right as a major leaguer and has almost exclusively in left as a Cub but is a natural center fielder and should be able to play acceptable defense at the position.
Pederson, who signed with the Cubs in February after seven seasons with the Dodgers, got off to a miserable start in Chicago, hitting .137/.262/.235 in April. He’s been quite a bit better since, posting a .254/.310/.463 slash line from May 1 through the All-Star break. He has 11 home runs this season.
Pederson has a $10 million mutual option with a $2.5 million buyout, so even if Acuña is back to start next season, Pederson could be a key member of next year’s Braves roster — particularly in the event that Ozuna receives a lengthy suspension or is moved back to DH if MLB adopts the universal designated hitter next year.
The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Ball was ranked as the Braves’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline. The left-handed hitter, a 24th-round pick in 2019, has posted a rather underwhelming .206/.350/.394 slash line with six homers in 214 plate appearances at High-A Rome this year. He had a stellar pro debut in 2019 between Rookie level Danville and Rome (then a Low-A affiliate), hitting .329/.395/.628 in 263 plate appearances. He hasn’t hit for as much power as one would expect from a hitter with his massive frame at any level yet, though, so the Cubs are banking on him eventually tapping into his power potential to a greater extent.