Colorado Rockies outfield prospect Corey Dickerson made his big league debut this weekend. Scouts have generally been lukewarm about him, but his minor league performance record has been quite good. Rockies fans have been waiting awhile to see Dickerson. What can they expect? Let's take a gander and make Corey Dickerson our Minor League Ball Prospect of the Day.
Dickerson was drafted by the Rockies in the eighth round in 2010, from Meridian Community College in Mississippi. He was quite successful in college, being named a junior college All-American after hitting .459 with 21 homers his sophomore season. Despite the big numbers, some scouts downgraded him due to lack of running speed, a weak throwing arm, and questions that his swing might not work at higher levels. He was excellent in his pro debut, hitting .348/.412/.634 with 13 homers and 12 steals in 276 at-bats for Casper in the Pioneer League. I gave him a Grade C in my 2011 book, but noted that he had outperformed expectations; I put a Sleeper Alert! tag on him.
Promoted to Low-A Asheville for 2011, Dickerson hit .282/.356/.629 with 32 homers, 39 walks, and 99 strikeouts in 383 at-bats. The homers looked great on the surface, but he did most of his damage in the power-friendly Asheville ballpark, where he hit a stunning .354/.417/.844. On the road, he hit a languid .193/.280/.363. Complaints continued about poor defense and the extreme home/road split was a big red flag. I kept him at a Grade C in my 2012 book, and Baseball America didn't even put him in their Top 30 Rockies prospect list.
To his credit, Dickerson worked hard to retool his swing in 2012, becoming more of a pure hitter and showing power to all fields rather than just the pull side. The results were strong: a .338/.396/.583 mark in 60 games for Modesto in the California League, followed by a .274/.322/.504 mark in 67 games for Double-A Tulsa. His tenure in the Texas League was briefly shortened when he was hit in the face with a pitch, but he came back within a week despite a broken nose. He followed up with a .364/.368/.515 line in the Arizona Fall League, and I had him rated as a Grade B- prospect entering 2013.
He was hitting .386/.429/.646 with 23 walks and 43 strikeouts in 277 at-bats for Triple-A Colorado Springs before his promotion to the Show.
Dickerson is a 6-1, 205-pound left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, born May 22, 1989. He's quite strong and scouts have always respected his raw power, but uncertainty about his pull-oriented swing hurt his stock at first, especially after the excessive home/road split at Asheville. However, Dickerson has improved his approach considerably, without losing power production. Although not a walk magnet, he has a decent batting eye and doesn't strike out excessively for a young power hitter.
His throwing arm is below average, due in part to a labrum injury in college. HIs running speed is average and he's aggressive about using it, perhaps too aggressive at times as he's not a good percentage stealer, but he's worked hard to improve his defensive ability and is decent enough in left field. The Rockies used him in right field occasionally in the minors and in his big league debut, but in the long run his arm makes him a better fit in left.
Dickerson doesn't have much left to prove in the minor leagues. As with any rookie, some ups-and-downs should be anticipated. It is true that his home parks and leagues have been friendly for offense, and while I don't think he's going to be a consistent .300 hitter in the majors (at least not in a neutral environment), I think the power is real. He's worked hard to remedy his deficiencies and prove the doubters wrong, and I think that's worth rooting for.