Dickerson Gets His Shot in Cincy

A quick look at the Cincinnati Reds’ 40-man roster reveals a land of opportunity in the outfield. Aside from mega-prospect Jay Bruce (more on him tomorrow), there’s…not much else. Utility-man Ryan Freel endured an injury-plagued season (though at least he still has Farney) and while Jerry Hairston Jr. (splitting time between center field and shortstop) turned in .326/.384/.487 line in 297 PA last year, he is also a 31 year-old with a career .700 OPS.

A lot could happen between now and opening day, be it a free agent signing or a trade. But as it stands right now, home-grown product Chris Dickerson figures to see a significant amount of playing time. A 6-3, 225 pound lefty hitter, Dickerson possesses an interesting blend of patience, speed and a little bit of power. The 26 year-old certainly made the most of his major league debut in 2008, batting .304/.413/.608 in 122 PA, popping 6 homers and drawing 17 walks. Is his Ruthian start a sign of things to come, or just insignificant small-sample mashing?

Selected out of Nevada in the 16th round of the 2003 amateur entry draft, Dickerson has shown good on-base skills in compiling a .260/.363/.415 minor league line. Since reaching AAA Louisville, he has shown a little more pop:

2007: 354 AB, .260/.355/.435
2008: 349 AB, .287/.382/.479

Dickerson could also be of some help in the steals category, as he has been a high-percentage base stealer in 2007 (23 of 28, 82.1%) and 2008 (26 of 33, 78.8%).

Of course, there’s one giant pink elephant in the room: Dickerson’s Kingman-esque strikeout rate. He whiffed a whopping 37% at Louisville in 2007, before cutting that rate to a still-whopping 29.2% in 2008. With the Reds, he K’d 34.3%. While he showed relatively solid plate discipline in Cincinnati (swinging at 24.44% of pitches thrown out of the strike zone), his contact rate was a Custian 69.53%.

Strikeouts do not necessarily keep a player from producing, provided that player has very solid secondary skills (walks and power). Dickerson has one of those, but his minor league track record suggests that his pop is only mid-range. Given his advanced age for a prospect, a high whiff rate and modest pop, Dickerson looks more like a useful fourth outfielder at the major league level than any sort of impact player. Don’t be fooled by his scalding cup of coffee last year: Dickerson can draw a walk and cause a little havoc on the basepaths, but he’s probably not starting material.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


3 Responses to “Dickerson Gets His Shot in Cincy”

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  1. Jim says:

    Bill James disagrees in a big way. He has him at a whopping 21 homeruns and 37 stolen bases with a .268 average! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Dickerson has never eclipsed 17 homeruns or 31 stolen bases in his professional career. Does he know something we don’t know or is it just one of those bold projections that has little basis on what has happened and what is likely to happen?

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  2. David Golebiewski says:

    I saw that! I think the Bill James projections are very useful, but I get the feeling that they might under estimate the transition between AAA and the majors. I think this holds especially true for “older” prospects. I remember a few years ago that Andy Phillips (who had raked at AAA Columbus in 2004 and 2005 as a guy in his late 20’s) was projected to post something like an .850+ OPS in the majors.

    I think that the projections are fairly reliable for major league hitters and minor leaguers who are at an age-appropriate level, but beware of the 25+ year olds who are projected to post big numbers.

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  3. John says:

    I think the truth may lie somewhere between the above author’s anaylsis and James’. Dickerson showed an amazing amount of confidence in his albeit brief MLB stint at the end of the season. That can only help in future MLB play. While “old” for a prospect, he is nontheless at an age where it isn’t uncommon for a player to take a step forward. The K rate is an undeniable red-flag, but the speed is a definite plus as is the new-found power stroke. The guy is good-sized 6’3/225 and appears to have an above-average combination of speed and power. In short, there are worse chances that a team (Reds) or a fantasy owner can take than this one. See him as a 20HR/30SB guy with risk of prolonged slumps and average RBI potential. Is Willy Tavares really the answer in CF? Probably not. Do Hairston (if he rejoins the Reds), Hopper, or Lance Nix have Dickerson’s upside? Doubt it. Barring a major signing (unlikely), Dickerson will get ample playing time and therefore has tremendous opportunity. I like his chances to achieve “usefulness”.

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