The Miami Marlins front office made its biggest splash in several years when the team inked outfielder Corey Dickerson to a two-year, $17.5 million deal just before New Year’s. While the Dickerson signing did not turn the baseball world upside down, it gave the Marlins a much improved offensive outlook for 2020.
When he is on the field, Dickerson has quietly been one of the more consistent players in baseball since 2014—the key is staying healthy.
Corey Dickerson is criminally underrated.— Locked On Marlins (@LockedOnMarlins) February 20, 2020
*Min. 75 games played:
Seasons with an OPS over .800: 4/5
Seasons with WRC+ over 110: 4/5
Career: .286/.328/.504, 117 WRC+
The asterisk in that tweet is key. Dickerson’s biggest challenge has been his availability, not his ability. Since making his debut with the Rockies in 2013, Dickerson has only played 150 games once. He was limited to 78 appearances last season between the Pirates and Phillies due to multiple injuries.
Dickerson broke out in 2014, belting 24 home runs to go with a .931 OPS. A concern with the production of Dickerson in his age 24 season was how dramatically he benefited from the “Coors Effect”.
It is well documented that the thin air in the Mile High City provides a nice boost to the carry on baseballs. An uptick in offensive numbers is almost inevitable. For Dickerson, his home numbers were MVP caliber—he hit .368/.415./.684 with 16 home runs in 67 games. On the road, Dickerson was far more pedestrian, posting a .252/.305/.431 slash line and doubled the strikeouts.
Dickerson would be shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a trade for pitcher German Márquez in 2016. The outfielder struggled a bit in his first year with the Rays, posting the worst full season of his career in 2016. He would bounce back to make his first All-Star team for the Rays in 2017, putting some of the “Coors Effect” concerns to bed.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly described Corey Dickerson as a player who constantly is making adjustments. One of the biggest struggles for Dickerson was his ability to hit or lay off the high fastball.
Fangraphs dove into Dickerson’s struggles on the elevated heater, pointing out that even in his All-Star season, Dickerson whiffed on 102 of 291 four-seamers in the upper third of the strike zone. However, in 2018, the outfielder swung through just 14 of 112 elevated fastballs. That 24.6% improvement helped cut down on his overall strikeouts.
Look closely at how high Corey Dickerson was choking up on the bat here. Still blasted it into the upper deck. pic.twitter.com/BspHR3U1Iy— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) February 21, 2020
Dickerson’s previous difficulties with fastballs in the upper third could also help explain the dramatic splits that he experienced at Coors Field in his time with the Rockies. On average, visiting pitchers throw less fastballs and more breaking balls in Colorado, a recipe for success for Dickerson.
The decrease in elevated fastballs makes sense for pitchers visiting Coors Field given the way the ball carries, but Dickerson feasted on pitchers hoping to keep the ball on the ground and in the yard.
With Dickerson now playing his home games in Marlins Park, which is still likely to be considered a pitcher’s park despite moving the fences in for a second time, his adjustments made at the plate will be essential to his success.
Dickerson has been platooned with several of his previous teams, something he may do a bit of with the Marlins given the team’s outfield depth. While Dickerson’s numbers are expectedly better against righties, his .272/.310/.409 slash line against southpaws is not bad by any means. The Marlins could stick with him as a true everyday player during hot stretches or also go to an outfield that features all right-handed hitters when appropriate, a refreshing flexibility.
The Fish have been starved for impact left-handed hitting bats for the last few seasons, especially in the corner outfield spots. The team started 14 different outfielders last season, three of which hit from the left side: Curtis Granderson, Magneuris Sierra and JT Riddle. The aforementioned trio combined for a .189 batting average. While Sierra looked strong in his 40 at-bats last year, Grandson and Riddle had a wRC+ of 71 and 54, respectively. At his worst, Dickerson posted a 101 wRC+ in 2016, making it safe to assume that the Marlins can count on a significant upgrade offensively in the outfield.
The cherry on top? Dickerson has turned himself into a plus fielder, too. The 2018 NL Gold Glove winner will contribute for Miami regardless of what’s happening in the batter’s box.
Thanks to the additions of Dickerson as well as Jesús Aguilar and Jonathan Villar, it is safe to say the Marlins should see an improvement from their league-worst 146 home runs in 2019. Dickerson projects to be a middle-of-the-order bat for the Marlins with the consistency to hit in the two-spot yet the power to justify batting him third or fourth.
If Dickerson can stay healthy, you can pencil him in as the everyday left fielder, excluding some tough matchups against southpaws.
With Villar expected to play center field for now and Garrett Cooper potentially manning right field, the Marlins should have production and consistency in the outfield for the first time in several seasons.