The South Atlantic League at the Low-A level features some exciting prospects and players who could be big league superstars within a few years. Does Corey Dickerson, the DH on our Seedlings to Stars SAL All-Star team, fit within that group?
Name: Corey Dickerson
Age: Turns 23 in May
2011 Team: Asheville Tourists (COL)
Basic Batting Stats: .282/.356/.629, 27 doubles, 5 triples, 32 homers, 86 RBI, 9 stolen bases (6 CS)
Fielding Stats: .973 Fld% in 53 games in left field, 2 outfield assists, .963 Fld% in 13 games in right field, 1 outfield assist
Dickerson was an 8th round pick by the Rockies in the 2010 MLB Draft out of Meridian Community College, an alma matter of Cliff Lee, and signed for $100,00 rather than attend Mississippi State University. Dickerson had also been drafted by the Rockies in the 29th round of the 2009 draft.
Corey Dickerson turned in two of the most electrifying performances in all of the minor leagues in 2011. On June 3rd versus the Augusta Greenjackets, Dickerson slammed three homers and drove in 10. Then on August 27th versus the Hagerstown Suns, Dickerson did it again, drilling three more longballs and driving in 6. All season he was dynamite . His 32 homers led the Sally League by a wide margin- his nearest competitor was Mark Canha with 25. He also led the Sally League in slugging percentage and OPS minimum 300 plate appearances. Dickerson had an incredible season yet no one considers him a top prospect. How good is Dickerson really?
Everyone is familiar with the “Coors Effect”, the advantage that the Rockies’ home park gave hitters for years. While Coors remains a hitter’s park, the Coors Effect has been held in check by the Rockies putting every baseball used in games in Coors in a humidor. The Asheville Tourists, the Rockies Low-A South Atlantic League franchise, also have an extreme hitters ballpark, especially for left-handed hitters like Dickerson. As of now, that effect is running rampant, and Dickerson is the poster child. As Nathaniel astutely noted in his write-up on Rockies prospects, Dickerson was an insane .354/.418/.852 with 22 doubles, 24 homers, and 68 RBI in 55 home games but just .193/.280/.363 with 7 doubles, 6 homers, and 19 RBI in 48 away games. How do we know that Dickerson isn’t just a decent power hitter whose power was amplified by the ballpark?
Before we get to the home and away splits, let’s start with Dickerson’s peripheral stats from Minor League Central. Dickerson did show incredible power. 24.6% of his flyballs to the outfield went for home runs (in other words, a 24.6% HR/OFB%), well above the Sally League average of 9.1%. That was despite the fact that Dickerson hit an incredible, almost ludicrous, amount of flyballs, 59.1% of his batted balls compared to the league average of 36.4%. A ridiculous 45.5% of his batted balls were flyballs to the outfield compared to the league average of 29.2%. By hitting such a ridiculous ratio of flyballs to the outfield, Dickerson took full advantage of his power. He did hit a lot of pop-ups, 13.6% of his batted balls compared to the league average of 7.2%, but that’s to be expected from such an extreme flyball hitter. Dickerson didn’t hit too many line drives, 10.1% of his batted balls compared to the 16.4% league average, but because he hit for so much power he still managed a .295 BAbip which led to his rock-solid .282 batting average. But also Dickerson was pretty decent at making contact. His 22.9% strikeout rate among his plate appearances wasn’t too much higher than the 20.1% league average, and his walk rate was also a bit above average at 9.0% of his PA’s compared to the league average of 8.5%. He should walk more, but his solid ability to make contact at a solid rate as a power hitter is an advantage for Dickerson. Dickerson’s incredible power is real and he’s a solid player overall. But that doesn’t mean anything until we see what’s going on with his home-road splits.
We saw the pure stats above, but let’s get more technical. Minor League Central gives us splits data, and a stat that is mostly unsurprising is Dickerson’s HR/OFB% was such a huge disparity between home and away. He posted a ridiculous 32.1% HR/OFB% at home compared to just 12.2% on the road. But what is startling is his batted ball tendencies between home and away are so similar. At home he posted a 10.7% line drive percentage, a 29.2% groundball percentage, a 48.2% outfield flyball percentage, and a 11.3% pop-up percentage. On the road, meanwhile, he posted a 9.3% line drive percentage, a 30.5% groundball percentage, a 41.5% outfield flyball percentage, and a 16.9% pop-up percentage. In terms of straight flyball percentage, Dickerson posted a 59.5% mark at home, just above his 58.4% mark on the road. Maybe Dickerson had a little more confidence at home compared to the road, but it was not a difference of ballpark but instead of quality of contact. It worked out that this year Dickerson got the barrel on the ball a lot more often at home compared to on the road. The question the we can’t answer definitively is what Dickerson’s true HR/OFB% is, meaning what it would be without chance being a factor. At home, Dickerson had the ballpark in his favor, but there’s no way his .170 ISO on the road wasn’t a fluke based on his power. The Asheville Tourists team had a 12.5% HR/OFB%. Dickerson’s overall HR/OFB% was nearly double that at 24.6%. Let’s say instead that Dickerson’s true HR/OFB% is equal to his HR/FB%, which factors in his pop-ups as well. That number is equal to 18.9%. If we apply that percentage solely to his outfield flyballs, we still have Dickerson hitting a very respectable 25 home runs on the season. But that would come with a proportional decrease to Dickerson’s doubles and triples as well to 25 total. When we take out the 7 homers and 7 doubles and triples and turn them into outs, Dickerson’s seasonal line becomes .245/.324/.518. That’s good, but nothing special at all. There are tons of players in the minors with a lot of power, and Dickerson doesn’t have the overall ability to distinguish himself as a notable prospect.
Corey Dickerson had a season to remember in 2011, but he’s going to need a lot more sustained performance as he progresses through the minors. The odds are against Dickerson. He has never been considered a prospect of note and his athletic ability along with his overall tools are nothing particularly remarkable. But there are always players that defy the odds and Dickerson will have to do that because he has uphill battle as he progresses towards the big leagues. That fight will continue for Dickerson at the Rockies’ High-A Modesto affiliate in 2012.
For more on the Rockies, please check out Rox Pile.