On Thursday, the Atlanta Braves acquired outfielder Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for first base prospect Bryce Ball. Pederson signed a one year deal with the Cubs worth $7 million (that also includes a $10 million mutual option for the 2022 season) prior to this season after a seven year tenure with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Braves recently lost their superstar right fielder, Ronald Acuña Jr., for the rest of the season after he tore his ACL trying to catch a fly ball near the wall against the Marlins which likely prompted the organization to pursue Pederson.
Although the Braves have underperformed up to this point in the season (45-47 after July 18th) they sit only 4.0 games back of the Mets for first place in the National League East. With Acuña out for the rest of the season, Pederson figures to take his place as the Braves’ everyday starting right fielder. In 73 games with the Cubs, Pederson slashed .230/.300/.427 (94 wRC+), with -5 OAA and DRS (mainly in left field), and 0.2 fWAR. Although Pederson has been replacement level so far in 2021 and struggled in the COVID shortened 2020 season (-0.1 fWAR in 43 games), Pederson had a 120 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR per 150 games from 2015-2019. In his three games since joining the Braves, Pederson has been red hot slashing .400/.455/.800 (230 wRC+) already matching his 0.2 fWAR he had with the Cubs.
Prior to being traded to the Cubs, Ball was ranked the 11th best prospect within the Braves organization and was given a 40+ Future Value (FV) by Fangraphs. Ball is a 6’6″, 240lb, 23 year old, who was selected in the 24th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Braves and has played in A+ this year with both the Braves and Cubs. Ball has had a well above average bat in the Minor Leagues up to this point as he has a 144 wRC+ across 117 games at the R, A, and A+ levels. Ball’s most eye-popping trait is his raw power which Fangraphs grades 70/70. Depeding on how current Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo’s situation plays out with the organization (Rizzo is set to become a Free Agent following this season), Ball could be a potential first base replacement in a couple of years if he can continue to hit well and develop at an efficient rate.
I’d give both the Braves and Cubs an A- for this trade. I like this trade for the Braves because after losing Acuña, they were in dire need of some outfield help and Pederson provides that. Steamer, a projection system used on Fangraphs, projects Pederson to have a 114 wRC+ for the rest of the season which would provide a much needed and well above average bat for the Braves as they look to make a push towards making the Postseason. I also like this trade for the Cubs because as they likely begin to start selling off key pieces of their team, there was no reason to hold onto Pederson. Considering how Pederson performed in a Cubs uniform, I didn’t expect the Cubs to get much but I think Ball has potential to be a serviceable Major League first basemen in a few years if he can continue to hit.