Chris Dickerson’s Possible Role

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The search for a DH is essentially in wait-and-see mode at the moment, meaning the Yankees are waiting to see who drops their prices before getting serious about a move. I still think it’ll be Johnny Damon, but you’re welcome to disagree. If it’s not Damon (or anyone else) and the Yankees wind up going into Spring Training or even the regular season without a set DH, then Chris Dickerson‘s chances of making the roster are pretty good. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

Dickerson, 30 in April, is actually Eric Dickerson’s cousin for all you NFL fans out there. He fell short of qualifying as a Super Two by a matter of days this offseason, and that might have saved his 40-man roster spot. Had he qualified as a Super Two and been arbitration-eligible, there’s a chance the Yankees would have non-tendered him rather than increase his salary by 200% or so. Anyway, he’s still on the team and is actually a useful player, albeit a limited one.

First, let’s talk about what Dickerson does well, starting with his athleticism and everything that comes with it. He has a reputation of being a strong defender in all three outfield spots, though he doesn’t have enough big league time for the advanced metrics to tell us anything meaningful. You’ll have to take my word for it.. Dickerson also has some speed and has been a highly efficient base-runner at the upper levels, swiping 24 bags in 30 tries in the majors (80%) and 75 bags in 92 tries at Triple-A over the years (81.6%). Defense and base-running are classic fourth outfielder traits, though Dickerson can hit a little, especially against right-handers.

More than 80% of his career plate appearances in the show have come against righties (490 of 582), and he’s tagged them for a .270/.355/.415 batting line, which works out to a .341 wOBA. Most of his power is into the gaps (21 doubles and seven triples) rather than over the fence (nine homers), and his 11.2% walk rate is very good. In 846 Triple-A plate appearances against righties, he’s hit .286/.387/.443 with 13.9% walks. That’s over 1,300 plate appearances at the two highest levels of baseball with better than average production against pitchers of the opposite hand. Against left-handers though, it’s a different story.

Dickerson hasn’t hit southpaws at all in the bigs (.292 wOBA in 92 plate appearances), and his 247 Triple-A plate appearances against lefties have resulted in a .246/.345/.339 batting line. The OBP looks solid enough, but it’s also inflated a bit by eight hit-by-pitches, six or which came more than three years ago. He’s a platoon player, and that’s fine since he’s on the dominant side of the platoon (unlike Justin Maxwell). Dickerson does strike out quite a bit, even against righties (26.3% in the bigs, 27.2% in Triple-A), though that can be partially explained by his walk rate. When you work deep counts, you’re going to strike out, it’s inevitable. That said, a whiff rate that high is a knock against him.

Aside from striking out a bit too much and not being able to hit lefties, Dickerson’s biggest drawback doesn’t even have anything to do with him as a player. He’s out of minor league options, meaning he can’t be sent back to Triple-A without first clearing waivers. Given his defense, base-running, and ability to not embarrass himself against righties, he’s also most certain to be claimed. An NL club (the Mets!) will gobble him right up for a bench spot. Being out of options alone shouldn’t be a reason to give him a spot on the 25-man roster, but it could serve as a tiebreaker if not one stands out from the crowd.

The Yankees do have two position player roster spots to fill at the moment: a DH and one on the bench (Eric Chavez‘s spot). If they end up carrying Dickerson on the roster to open the season, I assume he would take the DH spot and the Yankees would bring in another backup infielder/utility type (like Bill Hall). That doesn’t mean he has to DH though, and frankly it would be a waste of his defense. They could use him in right field against righties and let Nick Swisher DH those days, or they could let Swisher play first to give Mark Teixeira a day at DH. Point is, he’d give them more flexibility than a traditional DH-type like Damon, Raul Ibanez, or whoever else is out there to be had.

Dickerson has what amounts to one full big league season under his belt, though his 582 plate appearances are spread across four years. He did spend all of 2009 with the Reds as a platoon bat/fourth outfielder before an ankle injury effectively ended his season in late-August, but otherwise it’s been a bunch of up-and-down stuff. He could be a Quad-A hitter than will get exposed with regular at-bats, but his defense and speed figure to keep him valuable in some capacity, even if it’s not in New York. The Yankees have to figure out what they’re going to do with Dickerson one way or the other, and it’s not out of this world insane to think he might end up on the roster come Opening Day.

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  • Rookie

    Mike, what do you see in Damon’s performance last year or his splits that makes you think the Yankees would be inclined to want to allocate a roster spot to him?

    Honestly, it’s not obvious to me why they would/should.

    • RetroRob

      It’s not necessarily that Damon is great, but he’s not as done as people want to believe. I noted a few things on RAB the other night regarding things to like about Damon:

      http://riveraveblues.com/2012/.....nt-3705267

      My preference remains a trade, but if it’s the free-agent market, then Damon is a solid, one-year option compared to what’s out there.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Nothing in particular. Still a 15-15ish guy, they know him, he knows them. It’s the easy and safe move.

      • Rookie

        I guess an .812 OPS against lefties isn’t all bad — especially given the home/road split Ted points out. I actually hadn’t noticed them. Maybe away from the Trop he would be much better.

        Thanks Mike/Ted.

    • Ted Nelson

      The splits kind of speak for themselves, no? He was solid in 2010 and then solid on the road in 2011… only at the Trop was be awful. The Trop is one of the worst hitting parks in baseball. There’s definitely a chance there was luck involved and he declined overall, but there’s also a chance he didn’t decline in a significant way and was a victim of the Trop.

      I don’t think Damon is a great option, but the home/road splits make him stand out next to Matsui and Ibanez and Kotchman to me.

  • Ghost of Brian Taylor

    Damon for the minimum is the only way it will get done. Otherwise, give the kids a shot.

  • AJavierkei Pavagawnett

    +1

    He seems to offer marginally less offensive production but much more defensive flexibility than a lot of these lower-tier DH options.

  • Gonzo

    The Nats could use this guy. I think they might go with Roger Bernadina as the platoon lefty CFer. Too bad they don’t have a spare lefty DH type laying around.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    If the team opens the season with an extra OF beyond Andruw, Dickerson is a fine option. I think he makes for a solid fourth/fifth outfielder type.

    If the two bench spots are the DH/PH guy and backup corner infielder, then Dickerson rides the shuttle.

    • Gonzo

      Out of options.

      • Sayid J.

        You’d think people might read the post…

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Nah … Too difficult. Just skim through it and comment as you feel appropriate.

          • Rainbow Connection

            This isn’t a court of law. People can type whatever they want.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Precisely. So I missed something. Apparantly I need a peanut gallery here to show me right from wrong.

              So I’ll ammend this to either he opens as the fifth outfielder or he’ll ride the shuttle…..on another team.

  • Rookie

    P.S. And I assume that you would agree with me when I say that I think it goes without saying that his performance is not likely to be on the upswing in his age 38 season.

  • Gonzo

    You forgot the best part. They got him for Mitre!

  • Ghost of Brian Taylor

    What’s wrong with Ankiel? He can play all 3 spots and isn’t a complete loss with the bat…

    • Gonzo

      I liked him before last year, but the .300 OBP against RHP’s scares me. Still could be a good option though.

      • Gonzo

        * .300 OBP, last year.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          .319 OBP in 1300 PA since coming back as an outfielder. Yuck.

          • Gonzo

            Actually, if you look at his splits since 2007, he’s been on the every other year he can hit RHP’s.

            .246/.302/.444/.747 ’07
            .279/.362/.529/.890 ’08
            .230/.291/.417/.708 ’09
            .256/.339/.462/.801 ’10
            .243/.300/.379/.678 ’11

            2012 is an up year for him, but overall it’s trending in the wrong direction. Not a good sign.

            • Rookie

              Without any knowledge or doing any homework, I just figured that the up/down pattern might be injury related.

    • FIPster Doofus

      What’s right with Ankiel?

      • Ghost of Brian Taylor

        Better option than Damon at this point.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          How is Ankiel a better option than Damon? The only thing he can do is field, and the Yankees have a great defensive outfield.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            He can’t even field, he can just throw.

            • Thomas Cassidy

              Well, then at least he can throw.

            • Rainbow Connection

              That’s more than Nunez can do.

        • FIPster Doofus

          Come on.

  • MattG

    I’ve written it before, but now it’s totally on topic. I’m fine with starting the season with Dickerson and Jones platooning at DH, and Maxwell semi-platooning with Gardner. That would leave no room for Chavez, but Laird is just a phone call away.

    Dickerson and Maxwell are good platoon hitters, and the Yankees could do worse. I would prefer an economical trade for Daniel Murphy, but this would do, too.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      No need to have all three of those guys. Maxwell won’t start the season in the ML after that injury unless they dump Dickerson, which I doubt.

    • LiterallyFigurative

      Why carry 6 outfielders?

      • MattG

        Two are DHs that happen to play outfield. Starting nine vs LHP could include Maxwell and Jones, with Gardner and Dickerson on the bench. Why not? To carry a corner infielder? I understand that argument, but I would rather have the flexibility to sit Gardner vs LHP when he’s in one of his funks.

  • Rookie

    Sabermetrics aside, on a purely superficial basis, and based on what my eyeballs tell me in very limited time watching Dickerson, I’m thinking he could prove to be quite a bit better than most expect — even a well above average player.

    That said, I think 90% or so of the time I’ve thought that about players similar to Dickerson, I’ve been wrong.

    • Mister Delaware

      Gabe Gross on that list?

      • Rookie

        Nope. I can’t remember who was on the list. (Maybe a case of my mind editing out being wrong so often.) But it’s 4A players who do great for some minor league seasons and I think they should be given a shot in the majors and I never hear from them again.

        • Rookie

          Why I continue to think I’m probably right this time despite being wrong so often in the past is a prime example of hope over experience.

          • jsbrendog

            you’re due. i get it.

            • Rookie

              I doubt it. Just a flaw the human wiring, I think — at least in this human’s wiring.

    • Pasqua

      I applaud your honesty.

  • CJ

    Dickerson was exactly the kind of player they needed when bubba Crosby, greg goldson clay Bellinger and Colin Curtis were roaming the outfield. Now Dickerson might not even make the team.

    • pat

      Wait, what?

    • Thomas Cassidy

      Crosby was the only one whoever really roamed the outfield.

  • Monterowasdinero

    No on Dickerson. He can’t hit at all.

    • pat

      Except for all the evidence provided to the contrary, good point.

    • AJavierkei Pavagawnett

      And Brett Gardner hits like Ted Williams.

  • Rookie

    Maybe what it boils down to is relatively high upside potential with relatively low odds of achieving it — which under the circumstances ain’t all bad.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Mike, I enjoyed the article on Dickerson as a possible piece at DH or as the 4th OF against righties. I made this comment when Montero was sent to Seattle.

    IMHO Dickerson needs to more AB’s per week to revive his stats at the plate. As you mentioned the guy can play but as all these guys assigned to the end of the bench, managers do a poor job of finding playing time for them to stay sharp. Unless there are injuries and the bench is being filled with the bottom of the 40 man roster. There is no reason for players to be going 7days a week especially with no designated DH.

  • choochoo

    Johnny Damon is a mercenary, and has been for quite some time now. That said, it is very difficult to see him signing a contract and playing for anything around 2 million dollars.

    • Steve (different one)

      He made $13M in 2009, $8M in 2010, $5M in 2011….you may be right, but he’s certainly trending in our favor…

  • Ted Nelson

    I tend to overlook Dickerson, but mostly it’s because I don’t think he can produce at his career numbers over a full season. He seems like a high BABIP guy consistently, but I don’t really expect it to continue at .360 in MLB.

    I’m fine with him as a strict back-up OF, but if the Yankees don’t have a full-time DH/9th starter to speak of I’d like to see someone better than Dickerson rotating in. Might start the season with him to give him a shot and re-evaluate mid-season I suppose.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Much prefer Damon’s bat to Dickerson’s as a DH. Are we that strapped for cash? Damon is a clutch hitter who is healthy and will get big hits for us as well as hitting about 15 more HR’s than Dickerson. Damon still runs well too.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      15 more home runs? That means Damon will hit like 25 or more. If Dickerson platoons at DH he will probably hit around 10. Damon hasn’t been that clutch the past few years, but I do still prefer him.

      • Monterowasdinero

        Dickerson with 9 career HR’s and one in 2 years will platoon and hit 10.

        Sure.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          Dickerson has some power. He just had a little bit of health problems I believe. He isn’t a starter, either. What bench players that can’t stay healthy can hit ten home runs? None. If he can stay healthy and platoon, 10 to 15 isn’t out of the question.

          • Monterowasdinero

            Damon as a DH (he had more plate appearances last year than each of the previous 4) will produce excellent #’s in YS from the bottom of the order. He stole 19 last year and batted at the top of the order all year. He has seen it all and has been in every possible pressure situation.

            He will have close to 3000 hits in his career and Dickerson will be lucky to have 300. 10-15 HR’s is out of the question for Dickerson in my opinion.

            Now that we have pitching-we need hitting. Damon is the guy.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Damon’s not clutch. RISP numbers are abysmal the last few years.

      • Monterowasdinero

        He had some big hits down the stretch for the Rays last year. He had a clutch/heads up play on the basepaths that propelled us to a big World Series win. He won’t be batting second for us anymore and would be a helluva bat in the 7/8 position.

        Chris Dickerson may hit 5 HR’s.

  • CJ

    2:45pm: The Red Sox offered a one-year deal in the $5-6MM range and remain in the hunt for Jackson, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports.

    seriously? C’mon Cash 1 year 7.5. I will be pissed if Boston gets such a sweet deal.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      Why would the Yankees add any more starting pitching when they have too much? Especially when they barely have 2M to spend, let alone 7.5M.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t think they’ll sign him, but if they have the money they could bring him in as a 5th starter rather than letting the Red Sox get him. Winning the division and keeping the Red Sox from doing so could be worth the $7 million. Plus if they think he’s really worth $10+ mill per he’s a great value and a great trade piece mid-season.

    • Ted Nelson

      I really can’t believe that’s all Jackson is going to get…

      I sort of wrote off the getting traded so much thing, but if this comes to fruition… why do teams hate this guy so much?

      • Thomas Cassidy

        I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the bullshit new CBA, not that they hate Jackson.

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t follow. Other guys are signing big long-term deals with the new CBA in place.

          I wasn’t totally serious, but being traded so much + getting no love as a free agent is a bit of a trend.

          • LiterallyFigurative

            Maybe he is one of those stigma guys. He’s bounced around so much, you wonder if there is something in his makeup or personality that rubs people the wrong way.

            Pure speculation here. I’m just as miffed as the rest of you as to why he hasn’t been signed yet, and might be taking a one year deal from the BSox.

            • Ted Nelson

              I’m mostly shocked by the dollar figure. A 3.8 fWAR pitcher in his prime for $5-6 million per…

    • LiterallyFigurative

      LOL. We planning on an 8 man rotation? Edwin for the 6th inning role? Pineda and Nova start in AAA?

    • Rainbow Connection

      OT

      • Ted Nelson

        Didn’t you just say this isn’t a court of law and people can post whatever they’d like?

        • Rainbow Connection

          It’s still off topic.
          You being off topic isn’t an opinion.

          • Ted Nelson

            What are you talking about?

            Whether Dickerson has options left or not isn’t an opinion either…

            • Rainbow Connection

              I’m talking about life.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      “Keep him away from Boston” is never a sound reason to sign a guy.

      • Ted Nelson

        No, but it’s icing on the cake for a signing they want to make. Especially with the increased importance of winning the division.

        I doubt that they want to sign Edwin Jackson, but 1 year $6-7 million makes it something to consider. If they can move Garcia (I have no idea if there’s a taker or he’d sign off) they can get what I’d expect to be an extra win or two for $2-3 million, while simultaneously keeping what might be an even greater marginal difference off Boston (if they’re the front-runner).

    • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

      That’s really something. I think it’s almost surprising that he would opt to jump into next year’s free agent starter bonanza. I guess his agent thinks that next year with all the money being earmarked for those guys his guy will fall as a consolation prize.

      • Ted Nelson

        If two of Hamels, Greinke, Cain don’t hit free agency, I’d say Edwin Jackson could be the 2nd most desirable FA pitcher next offseason. Right there with Marcum. Anibal I like, but has health, durability, and consistency questions. Liriano, Jonathan Sanchez, McCarthy? Lots of question marks.
        I don’t really understand why people are drooling over next year outside the top 3. The top 3 I understand, but people seem to extend that down to everyone else. Outside those three I don’t see this as any better than CJ Wilson, Buerhle, EJax, Kuroda, etc. this season.

        Then again, if these rumors are true no one seems to want to sign him right now. Don’t know how much yet another solid season would do for him.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    The question is: Can Dickerson produce something comparable to his alernatives?

    He’s career .270/.355/.415, so even if you estimate conservatively, would his speed and his being a defensive upgrade to Swisher be enough to offset the need to sign a Johnny Damon?

    Let’s say Dickerson hits .255/.340/.390, plays RF well, runs the bases well. Hits 10 hrs.

    Wouldn’t that be better than Damon hitting .265/.350/.410, hitting 15 hrs., keeping Swisher’s glove in RF, and worrying about how his legs hold up over the season?

    Remember, they would also only be facing RHP’s for the most part. Jones would get the LHP at bats.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      You just answered your own question when you put up the slash lines, lol. Damon would be better, and Swisher’s glove isn’t bad at all.

      • LiterallyFigurative

        It ain’t that good either.

        I guess I value the marginal added speed and defense over a marginal offensive upgrade.

        • MattG

          Swisher’s fielding is probably better than you think.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          No, it’s pretty good.

        • JobaTheHeat62

          I think Swisher is a good defensive player.

  • Nolan

    If we bring in Damon then we can’t bring in anyone better that becomes available around the trade deadline. Also using Dickerson until the trade deadline gives us time to rebuild trade value for joba, Hughes, Freddy and AJ.

    • Monterowasdinero

      But Damon will be good for us all year with the bat.

      My thoughts on Dickerson’s offense over Damon’s are something like what the Mariner catcher is doing in that pic above.

  • JobaTheHeat62

    I really like the idea of having a rotating DH role. Having Dickerson, Jones, and Nunez as the regular DH rotation. Dickerson hits righties, and Jones mashes lefties. On top of that the flexibility is great because every position is covered with those 3 which will always make it easy to DH regulars. Also all 3 are used to the backup rolls so they have shown they can succeed with <300-400 PA. I think adding Chavez would be the perfect fit for that last roster spot, and if not him i like the Bill Hall idea. That would be a good bench that you could get the most out of having that open DH position. Only bad thing i can think of is Girardi force feeding starts to Cervelli since Martin could DH.

    • Ted Nelson

      I agree with the concept, I just question whether those bench guys other than Jones will perform well enough to make it work better than just having a decent hitter as the primary DH.