Dustin Pedroia, born August 17, 1983, was the second round pick of the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 amateur baseball draft. Standing at just five-foot-nine and weighing in at 180 pounds, Pedroia developed a reputation early on for always looking to prove his critics wrong and standing far taller than his size would indicate.
A shortstop at Arizona State, Dustin Pedroia hit .347 in his freshman year, walked more than he struck out, and boasted a .849 OPS. His first year performance earned him a spot on the Freshman All-America team and an All-Star for the Pacific 10 Conference.
In his sophomore year at Arizona State, Pedroia broke out his Ted Williams impression, hitting .404, walking 36 times against only 13 strikeouts, slugging a NCAA-leading 34 doubles, and finishing with a 1.042 OPS. His outstanding performance both at the plate and on the field earned him a Pacific 10 Conference Co-Player of the Year award, a spot on the All-American second team, and the title of the 2003 NCAA Defensive Player of the Year.
Pedroia kept up his improvement in his junior and final season of college baseball as he hit .409 with a .645 on-base percentage, 43 walks to 11 strikeouts, and 33 extra-base hits. He was a first-team All-American and a finalist for the 2004 Golden Spikes Award for the best amateur baseball player. In his three-year collegiate career, Pedroia demonstrated amazing contact skills, striking out just 43 times in 753 at-bats versus 103 walks with a .388 batting average.
After being passed up through the first 64 picks of the 2004 draft due to ongoing size concerns, the Red Sox made Pedroia their first selection of the draft. He was signed quickly, skipped straight past the rookie and short-season levels of the minor leagues, and assigned to the A-level Augusta Green Jackets of the South Atlantic League. It took Pedroia just 50 at-bats in Augusta for the Red Sox to promote him to advanced-A Sarasota. He struck out just four times in 107 at-bats while hitting .336 and getting on-base at a .523 clip to close out a very strong first professional season.
Pedroia began his 2005 season with the AA-level Portland SeaDogs of the Eastern League. On the defensive end, he moved from shortstop to second base. At the plate, he continued to hit at a high rate and made his way onto the Eastern League midseason All-Star team. Shortly after midseason, having hit .324 with a .409 on-base percentage and .917 OPS, Pedroia was promoted to AAA, joining the Pawtucket Red Sox only a calendar year into his professional career. Come season’s end, he had been named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year and a postseason All-Star.
2006 would mark Dustin Pedroia’s final stint in the minor leagues. Once again in Pawtucket, he continued his trends of .300-plus hitting, quality plate appearances, walking more than he strikes out, and getting on base at a high clip. He finished his minor league career by hitting .305 with a .384 on-base percentage in 2006 before being advanced to the Boston Red Sox on August 22. He got the start in his first major league game, playing shortstop against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, collecting his first major league hit against Angels’ starter Joe Saunders. Pedroia would end up spending the rest of the season in the majors, collecting 89 at-bats of experience before what would be his first full major league season.
Going into spring training, Dustin Pedroia was named Boston’s starting second baseman. He started his rookie season slowly, hitting just .182 in April, though he walked ten times to just six strikeouts. May was a different story for Pedroia as he hit .415, got on base at a .472 clip, and was named the Rookie of the Month for the American League. He barely slowed down, never hitting below .299 in any month for the rest of the season, and earning his way into the leadoff spot in the batting order. Pedroia finished the regular season with a .317 average, .380 on-base percentage, a 47/42 walk-to-strikeout tally, and a .823 OPS; his impressive performance earned him league-wide attention and he was named the American League Rookie of the Year.
As the Red Sox made the playoffs, Pedroia continued his hot hitting into October, holding his own against top competition with a .283 average, two home runs, and a .832 OPS in 60 at-bats. In the first game of the World Series, Pedroia led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run, setting the tone for a win and eventual Red Sox sweep, becoming a World Series Champion in his rookie season.
His 2007 performance would be difficult to top, but Dustin Pedroia blew past it in 2008. Pedroia became the Red Sox’s most important player in 2008, playing elite baseball on both sides of the game. He made his first All-Star team in 2008, the first of many accomplishments. In the postseason, he added a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. With a .326 batting average, 17 home runs, 54 doubles, and 20 stolen bases, Pedroia won the 2008 American League MVP Award, becoming just the fourth second baseman to ever win an AL MVP.
Pedroia was an All-Star again in 2009, slugging 64 extra-base hits, stealing 20 bases, and reaching base at a .371 clip. For the third time in as many years, Pedroia’s Red Sox reached the playoffs. His 2010 season is off to a strong start with a .302 average and 6 home runs in April.