*Stats good through Wednesday, July 21
Kane County outfielder Rashun Dixon has already had ups and downs in his career. He signed for an over-slot bonus in the 10th round of the 2008 draft, and then went out to slug .525 as a 17-year-old in the AZL.
Expectations were raised for the young outfielder entering 2009, and there was much thought given to sending him to Kane County at age 18. Ultimately, he would spend the year in Vancouver, and Dixon's numbers cratered, as he hit just .214/.300/.281. The slump took Dixon off of Baseball America's top 30 A's prospects following the year, and his stock was clearly down.
Still, 57 poor games at age 18 shouldn't really be the death of the career of a player with Dixon's potential; in many ways, his 2008 success raised the bar higher than it should have been for a player as raw as Dixon was coming out of high school.
Still just 19, Dixon has spent the whole year at Kane County in 2010, and he's delivered in between 2008's fantastic performance and 2009's disaster. He's hit .245/.350/.365, showing off improved pitch recognition and cutting down on his strikeouts at the expense of power.
Dixon's walks per game are notably up, from .4 in 2008 to .403 in 2009 and now .52 in 2010. He's also cut down his strikeouts per game, from 1.51 in 2008 to 1.28 last year and 1.09 this year. Striking out more than once per game is a major issue still, but Dixon has certainly tightened up his strike zone, allowing him to make more contact and draw more walks. That's a huge reason for his 31-point jump in batting average this year.
Dixon had 10 triples and eight homers in his pro debut, and only has two triples and seven homers in the two years since, but there are quite a few reasons for that. First, triples can be somewhat fluky, so the decline in triples isn't necessarily skill degradation so much as going from good luck to bad luck. Second, Dixon's obvious attempts to work on his strike zone and make more contact seem to be what he's more focused on now, and rightly so—power can develop late. Third, Vancouver and Kane County are both pretty tough hitter's environments—expect Dixon to clear the fences more as he hits the higher levels of the A's system.
The other thing to keep in mind with Dixon is that he's holding his own in full-season ball at age 19, which is no mean feat. Sure, he didn't crush Low-A like Angels prospect Mike Trout did, but Dixon's numbers match up very well with many top prospects.
Take Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks, who many consider one of the top prospects in baseball. Hicks is nearly a full year older than Dixon, but his .269/.378/.418 line isn't too much better than Dixon's .245/.350/.365—all that really separates them is a few singles and doubles. Hicks' 85/53 K/BB in 79 games is similar to Dixon's 84/40 in 77 games.
Last year, at age 19, Hicks hit a very Dixon-esque .251/.353/.385 with 10 steals (Dixon has five), and was ranked as the Twins' best prospect. Some may say that that's largely due to his upside and athleticism, but Dixon is an athletic center fielder with upside as well, so the comparison still holds.
Padres prospect Everett Willams is just about a month younger than Dixon, and the second-rounder last year is hitting worse than Dixon, at .235/.318/.346. Williams has struck out 96 times in 67 games.
Diamondbacks prospect Keon Broxton is actually a few months older than Dixon, but the athletic 2009 third-rounder has struck out 110 times in 89 games while batting .236/.317/.365, again significantly worse than the A's prospect.
Hicks, Williams, and Broxton all entered the year with far more acclaim than Dixon, and yet Dixon looks like the best out of the four projectable outfielders when you look at age and current production. He may not be setting the Midwest League on fire, but he's a definite prospect to watch as he moves up the system, gets more comfortable with the strike zone, and plays in more hitter-friendly parks and leagues.