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Corey Dickerson: Rockies sleeper prospect made good

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Corey Dickerson
Corey Dickerson
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson now has slightly more than one full major league season under his belt. Through 166 games for the Rockies, Dickerson has hit .299/.352/.530 with 34 doubles, 21 homers, 43 walks, and 112 strikeouts in 548 plate appearances, resulting in a 3.3 fWAR.

Yes, Colorado helps him. At home he has a career line of .342/.402/.654, wRC+160. On the road it is much less impressive at .260/.307/.415, wRC+99. However, most of the sharp split comes from 2013. In 2014 his production has been much more balanced, .367/.409/.667 (wRC+169) at home but a still solid .279/.333/.487, wRC+127 on the road.

This pattern has been present from the beginning of Dickerson's career.

He was an eighth round pick in 2010 from Meridian Junior College in Mississippi, where he'd hit .459/.535/.934. He remained hot in pro ball, hitting .348/.412/.634 for Casper in the Pioneer League, leading to this assessment in my 2011 book:

SLEEPER ALERT!! I think the Rockies have a nice find here. Dickerson was drafted in the eighth round last year, from Meridian Community College in Mississippi. He played very well in the Pioneer League, posting a +38 percent OPS and demonstrating both power and speed. His plate discipline could use some work, but scouts seem to like his hit tool. His defense is nothing special so he’ll have to hit to get noticed. Gaudy stats are common in the Pioneer League and aren’t enough by themselves to make someone a prospect, but experts who followed the CC/JC ranks last spring thought Dickerson had considerable potential and it looks like they might be right. Grade C until we see higher-level data, but a player to watch.

Yuck, I used the phrase "hit tool." My apologies.

Dickerson had a great year for Asheville in 2011, hitting .282/.356/.629 with 32 homers, however he had a very sharp home/road split and reports from people who saw him in person were often quite negative. The assessment:

Although he slammed 32 homers in the Sally League last year, scouts are lukewarm, at best, about his future. Scouts aren’t wild about his tools, rating his athleticism and arm strength as fringy, although many (not all) praise his raw power. Skeptics are quick to point out Dickerson’s sharp home/road split: he hit .354/.417/.844 with 26 homers in the friendly confines of Asheville, but a mere .193/.280/.363 with six homers on the road. That’s a very extreme split. I liked him coming out of junior college, but I think the skeptics have a good point. Until we see Dickerson hit in a more neutral environment, I have to keep him as a Grade C.

Dickerson didn't like those doubts so he set out to prove everyone wrong, hitting .337/.396/.583 in 60 games for Modesto in the High-A California League and .274/.322/.504 in 67 games for Tulsa in the Double-A Texas League. His home/road splits were much more even, and he followed up with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

Although scouting reports still pointed to mediocre tools, there were fewer doubts about his bat and building appreciation for his hitting ability. I know "clutch" performance is sabermetrically elusive but it was something that sources mentioned more than once, which at least tells you something sociologically about the increasing level of respect he garnered.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Corey Dickerson entering 2012. He had a great home run year in ’11, but his scouting reports were mediocre, and a very strong home/road split made me worry that his numbers were just an illusion caused by his friendly home park at Asheville. Dickerson answered any questions about his power by ripping up the California League, continuing to hit for power in the Texas League, and finishing with a .364/.368/.515 line in the Arizona Fall League. Dickerson’s physical tools are considered average at best, particularly on defense, but his power is very real and he’s developed a reputation among scouts as a clutch performer who sneaks up on people. He still needs to improve his plate discipline and he’s not going to be hitting .300 in the majors (not in a neutral environment anyway), but he could have a long career as a platoon player. Grade B-.

As you know Dickerson destroyed the Pacific Coast League last year (.371/.414/.632), held his own in the majors thanks to his home park, but is hitting well this year both at home and on the road. For a very detailed breakdown of Dickerson's statistical splits, this recent Rotographs article by Daniel Schwartz is recommended reading and lends sabermetric weight to the idea that Dickerson is for real.

I stand by my 2013 analysis that Dickerson is not a .300 hitter in a neutral environment, but I do think that the .279/.333/.487, wRC+ 127 mark on the road this year is a fair representation of his ability. He's devastating in Colorado (as he was in Asheville), but the guy is productive anywhere once he gets settled in.

Its great when the Pioneer League sleepers pan out.

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