Here’s a long forgotten fun fact for you: outfielder Alex Dickerson was not drafted by the San Diego Padres. It’s pretty common for most fans to assume that most minor league prospects were drafted by their team, save for the ones acquired in blockbuster trades. However, Dickerson was actually drafted in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson actually spent three full years in the Pirates’ minor league system before being acquired by the Padres in return for Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas. Now that’s a high profile trade. Given that Dickerson is from Poway, it’s easy to just assume he was drafted by his hometown team, even though he’s only been in San Diego the last four years.
Anyway, Dickerson played in 41 games with a 153 wRC+ in short-season ball in his first professional season. Dickerson was then promoted to High-A, skipping Low-A altogether, for the entirety of the 2013 season. In 541 plate appearances, Dickerson slashed .295/.353/.451 with a 127 wRC+. Dickerson followed that success with a similar 2013 season in Double-A, with a .288/.337/.494 slash line and 126 wRC+. Prior to his trade to San Diego, Dickerson was rated among the top ten first base prospects in all of baseball in 2013, although he moved full-time to the outfield in his last season in the Pittsburgh system.
The 2014 season was pretty much a wash for Dickerson, as a severe ankle sprain and cyst sidelined him for much of the season. He finished the year with 34 games in Double-A, slashing .321/.367/.496 with a 146 wRC+ in just 147 plate appearances. Following the season, Dickerson was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Dickerson spent much of the 2015 season in Triple-A, slashing .307/.374/.503 with a 132 wRC+ before a late-season promotion to San Diego. Dickerson was somewhat limited by injuries and only appeared in 11 games before the year concluded.
Dickerson took his offensive performance to a whole new level back in Triple-A in 2016, slashing .382/.425/.622 with a 172 wRC+ and a strikeout rate nearly half of what it was in previous years. Dickerson earned himself another promotion in May, and he ended up playing in 84 games for the Padres, slashing .257/.333/.455 with a 112 wRC+. Dickerson didn’t rate out as well defensively, but he did do enough at the plate to make himself near a league average player in the outfield.
Dickerson’s big league success seemed to be short-lived, as a back injury sidelined Dickerson for the entirety of the 2017 season. Despite moments where it seemed like he was close to returning, Dickerson did not play a single professional inning last season after undergoing back surgery in June. For all intents and purposes, Dickerson appears to be shooting for a healthy return to the field in 2018.
2018 Long-Term Outlook
Going into 2018, Alex Dickerson, like Travis Jankowski, has a lot to prove on the field. Dickerson has shown he can produce in the big leagues, but he has shown an inability to stay healthy since joining the Padres’ organization. Interestingly enough, Dickerson is pretty much the opposite of Jankowski, as Dickerson has a great hit tool and some solid power, but not much else, while Jankowski has been all glove and speed so far. If there was a way to combine those two into one player, that would be an All-Star-caliber player. However, that obviously isn’t possible.
In terms of Dickerson, 2018 is going to be a make or break year for him. With the Padres’ outfield getting more and more crowded, the Padres are going to have to start making some decisions on which players will be a part of the team’s long-term plans, and which players won’t be. There is some concern here because back injuries can sometimes be long-term, recurring injuries, but if Dickerson can return healthy and hit like he did in 2016, he could earn himself some serious playing time. Even with his offensive skills, it’s hard to picture Dickerson being an impact player on the next great Padres’ team. He could make a solid bench bat, but with a lack of speed and defense, he is not really the ideal fourth outfielder. It will be interesting to see how his 2018 season goes.