If you’ve been following the Dodgers in-depth at all, you’ve probably heard all of the writers speak ad nauseam about their highly touted farm system, overflowing with youth, talent and potential.
Early this year, Baseball America’s Ben Badler updated the Dodgers prospect rankings and it largely consists of players who have been on everybody’s radar for at least a few seasons now.
However, for the past three years or so, the Dodgers have had one young minor leaguer who has somehow slipped through the cracks of all scouting reports.
In the 2011 Amateur Draft, the Dodgers selected O’Koyea Dickson in the 12th round at the ripe age of 21 years old. As soon as he was drafted, Dickson wasted no time in making an impact in the minors. In his first year with the Ogden Raptors, Dickson batted .333 in 43 total games, swatting 13 homers to complete the abbreviated season.
Since his first year in rookie ball, he has sailed through the minor leagues, never spending more than one season at each level before being promoted with exception to the past two seasons in Triple-A. In ’15 and ’16, Dickson has proved himself a crucial part of the Oklahoma City Dodgers’ lineup. In 218 games for the OKC Dodgers, he’s put on quite the show, batting .292 with 31 homers and a slash line of .292/.349/.508.
“Yeah? So? Big deal.”
Well, it sort of is. At least to me.
It seems to me that his talent is being smothered by the copious amount of exposure that other Dodger prospects are receiving (which is a great problem to have if you’re a fan, I suppose). But during the time that Dickson has been toiling in the minors, the Dodgers have had an ongoing Chinese fire drill in the outfield. Between injuries, failed expectations and clubhouse drama, the Dodgers have been tearing through outfielders like they’re going out of style. There was a point last season when I thought for certain that it would be Dickson’s time to shine in the majors. Instead, the Dodgers promoted Andrew Toles. Of course, Toles did more than anyone could have possibly asked for, playing well enough late in the season to earn himself a postseason roster spot. He would eventually prove one of the most important runs in the postseason, scoring to take the lead late in game four of the NLDS versus the Nationals.
But why not Dickson? Maybe we aren’t asking the right questions. Let’s examine him a little more closely.
There is little indication (at least in his stats) that Dickson can run with any exemplary sort of speed. In 642 minor league games, he’s stolen only 24 bags. It’s also worth adding that his short, stocky frame doesn’t promise any development of speed in the future. Perhaps this lack of speed is indicative of the sort of range you can expect from him on defense. In fact, he’s only listed as a left fielder and first baseman on Baseball Reference.
The Dodgers don’t run though. Ever, really. The best base stealer the Dodgers have had in recent memory is still Dee Gordon who has since brought his all-star caliber talent to Miami. So any lack of speed by Dickson is baseless in arguments against promoting him.
He also plays first base, though. Granted, the Dodgers picture at first base is slowly becoming more and more crowded. Mega prospect Cody Bellinger has assumed the top spot on the Dodgers’ prospect rankings and it’s assumed before Adrian Gonzalez’ contract expires, Bellinger will be spending at least a little time under the wing of the veteran first baseman.
It’s worth noting that Gonzalez’ production has been trending downward for at least an entire season now. Last year was disappointing. Gonzalez batted .285 with only 18 homers, which are both below his 162 game average of .290 and 28 HR. There has been plenty of speculation as to why A-Gon’s production fell off so steeply, whether it’s his chronic injury in his back and neck or simply the expected decline of his ability at this point in his career (he’ll be 35 this season).
If Bellinger isn’t quite ready to assume the full-time role at first for the Dodgers, who could be a better bridge between Bellinger and A-Gon than someone like O’Koyea Dickson? I firmly believe that his performance in the minors has more than earned him a fair shot at the position.
If I could, I’d like to end with my own personal endorsement of the young man. I’ve had the exciting opportunity in recent seasons to see Dickson play in the minors. During spring training games, he is far and away one of my favorite players to watch on the field.
See ya! ?
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 28, 2017
His ability to work deep into at-bats and wait for his pitch is an invaluable trait in a player as young as he is. His ability to hit the ball into the gaps with power means a lot of extra base hits. Whenever I’m in attendance, I always make sure to have my camera ready because I truly believe that he is a player lost in flux between the bus leagues and the show.
O’Koyea Dickson is a young player who will not show up on any top prospect lists, but he is no player to snooze on either. I’ve been asking for the past few seasons now, “Why isn’t he in the bigs?” Perhaps this could be his year to seize the opportunity and show the Dodger faithful what he has to offer.