In many ways, the Pirates’ farm system is loaded with talent. Keith Law ranks their farm system as 7th overall and Baseball America places them at 8th in the MLB. The Pirates have a trio arms that would make any GM’s mouth water, a bevy of outfield talents, and a top-tier shortstop prospect.
However, one thing the Pirates don’t have is a big time prospect at first base.
This could be cause for concern as Garrett Jones is already 31, and more than likely has already had his best season. The jury is still out on his platoon partner, Gaby Sanchez. In a division that contains Joey Votto, Corey Hart, Allen Craig, and the up-and-coming Anthony Rizzo, it is imperative that the Pirates try to keep up and find a player that can mash at 1B.
Luckily, my choice for breakout prospect of the year, Alex Dickerson, is waiting in the wings. Last offseason I picked Alen Hanson as my breakout prospect and look how that turned out. Let’s trust I go two-for-two.
Dickerson was drafted in the 3rd round of the draft in 2011 out of Indiana University, where he put up excellent numbers. In his sophomore season, he led the Big Ten in batting average (.419), home runs (24), and RBIs (75) earning himself the conference Triple Crown. He also posted a ridiculous slugging percentage of .805. He was named the conference Player of the Year and an All-American.
In a shortened first season in State College, right after being drafted, Dickerson hit .313 with 3 HRs. This past season at Bradenton, he hit for an average of .295, blasted 13 HRs, posted a .803 OPS, and lead the Pirates’ system with 90 RBIs. He was named the Florida State League Player of the Year and is now listed as the 7th best first baseman prospect in all of baseball.
Despite all of Alex Dickerson’s accomplishments, he is often overlooked and isn’t considered to be a top talent because of inconsistent power. However, the FSL is horrendous for home runs, think of it as the Petco Park of the minor leagues. Remember what Chase Headley does away from San Diego? Dickerson lead the Marauders in home runs and finished with the 7th most HRs in the league.
Why He Can Breakout:
- Great Hitting Skills: Dickerson has always had a high batting average, and while his body wont fill out much more the power can still keep coming. Keep in mind that in his 6 years down in the minor leagues Matt Holliday never hit more than 16 home runs. Interestingly, Dickerson also hit for a higher average against lefties than he did against right-handers despite batting left handed
- Learning Curve: Dickerson is still learning to play 1stBase after playing OF throughout college. Learning a new position can take time away from focusing on hitting. This year, he can focus on the bat more.
- New Enviornment: Peoples Natural Gas Field (Altoona Curve’s stadium) and PNC are much friendlier to left-handers than McKechnie
- Clutch/Smart Hitter: Dickerson batted over .320 with players on base; he is going to rack up those RBIs.
- Excellent Tools: Has elite bat speed despite a loop in his swing and combines that with excellent plate discipline
- Physique: At 6-3, 235lbs Dickerson has the build to be a consistent 25+ home run hitter
- Momentum: Turned up the power in the second half of last season belting 9 of his 13 homers during this period and batted over .301. I see him continuing this trend in the new season.
Alex Dickerson is a slugger, plain and simple. He has always hit for a high average and shows glimpses of great power. He has thrived at every level he’s played at, often earning the highest honors. I don’t expect that to change in 2013.
While I usually try to stay away from pro comparisons, it’s usually like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, he reminds me of a Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt is of similar size, doesn’t have elite power but can still hit home runs, hits for a nice average, and always seems to get the job done with men on base. Having a player like Goldschmidt anchoring the middle of the order for years to come would do wonders for the Pirates’ lineup.
I don’t think I have to remind you that PNC is always a great place for power hitting lefties.