San Diego Padres outfield prospect Alex Dickerson is on fire right now for the El Paso Chihuahuas. Amid a 26-game hit streak, Dickerson has climbed to the top of the Pacific Coast League batting average leaderboard.
Dickerson is the 26-year old corner outfielder and first baseman that sits in most people’s Top 30 prospects in the Padres organization. He was drafted in the third round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and after a quick climb to Double-A, he was traded to the Friars. There was seemingly no room for Dickerson and Pittsburgh, and it’s time to start wondering if there is any room in San Diego.
There is no denying that Dickerson can hit. These past 26 games weren’t the first time Dickerson caught fire. He has a career .307 batting average over parts of six seasons in the minors. The downside is that he has very little home run power. The most he ever hit in a season was 17 and that was three seasons ago in Altoona.
You can get by in the big leagues with a decent bat for average and middling home run power — especially at normally power-laden positions like first base and the corner outfield spots — but you can’t survive without playing defense. This is where Dickerson has always fell short.
He started his career at first and after a disastrous debut full season at High-A where he committed 17 errors, he was moved to the outfield. While he wasn’t as error prone in the outfield, he simply doesn’t have the range, nor the arm strength to be a super effective outfielder. His arm is decent enough, but he is (not so) blessed with Sid Bream-esque speed.
But, as previously mentioned, Dickerson can straight out hit. He has a nice line drive swing and he uses his gap power to all fields pretty successfully. He has never had a severe drop off when it came to right-handed or left-handed pitching when it comes to average, but the bulk of his power comes against right-handed pitching. In fact, he hit 20 home runs between 2013 and 2014 and a grand total of zero came against lefties.
This season, after his second brief stint in the big leagues, Dickerson is in the zone. He has now hit safely in 26 consecutive games. 13 of those games have been multi-hit performances. He already has eight home runs this season (an even split, four apiece against lefties and righties) and is getting on base at a .450 lick, second in the PCL.
Dickerson has never been a huge walk guy, but he’s so good at making contact that it has yet to be a pressing issue. This season is the perfect example. Dickerson has walked a mere 5.4-percent of the time (seven walks in 129 plate appearances), but in the same sense, he’s only striking out ten percent of the time (14). That has been a characteristic — and a good one — throughout his career as his has a career 353:146 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 2027 plate appearances.
When you combine his questionable defense with his lack of big-time power, as well as his power outages against lefties, it seems to have Dickerson as more of a platoon player than a starter at the big league level. Over two brief stints with the Padres (18 total at bats) he is slashing .222/.222/.389, but he did hit his first big league home run this year off of Adam Warren.
The Padres are currently rolling with Tyler Jankowski as their fourth outfielder. They just traded James Loney and have Brett Wallace backing up Wil Myers at first. It seems like someone with Dickerson’s hit profile would actually have room to fit in, especially on a roster that features both Melvin Upton, Jr. and John Jay as everyday starters. Dickerson may be a man without a home in San Diego, but in El Paso, one thing is for certain.
Tomorrow, it’s highly likely that Dickerson is going to get a hit.