“He’s going to be in the lineup any time we play an American League affiliated team [at the Double-A and Triple-A levels pitchers on National League affiliated clubs hit when playing against each other] but against NL teams a lot of times I’m going to keep him out out the lineup because I want him to get used to pinch-hitting,” Barajas said on his plans for Dickerson.
“We see that role as his entry point into the big leagues and he needs to feel comfortable with it.”
Dickerson, 25, a graduate of Poway High School, is in his third year with San Diego after being acquired in 2013 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade for minor leaguers Jaff Decker and Miles Mikolas. Last year he was the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year with a slash line of .307/.374/.503 and made his major league debut appearing in eleven games with two hits, all in a pinch-hitting role.
“He’s a very strong kid and if you get out here early for batting practice he can put on a show,” said Barajas.
Dickerson has hit at every leve he’s played. He finished his three-year collegiate career at Indiana with a .386 batting average and has a career minor league league slash line of .302/.361/.488. The big questions have always been where does he play?
“I take a lot of pride in being better defensively than people give me credit for,” said the left-handed Dickerson who has played both corner outfield posititions and first base in career; but is seen by the organization as primarily a left fielder.
For now what will keep him in the major leagues is his ability to hit, and more specifically with a crowded outfield on the big club, his ability to suceed as a pinch-hitter. To Dickerson the differences in pinch-hitting are different but at the same time not too different.
“I’m going to go up there and hack at the pitch I want whether it is early in the count or late. But at the same time where guys struggle with is they take a full-game approach - where you may let a few pitches go by just to get the timing down - as opposed to this is the only at-bat you are going to get.”
“You have to get your timing down in the on-deck circle because the only good pitch you may see in that at-bat is the first one.”
Pinch-hitting in the big leagues is also different than in the minors because of the amount of information, scouting reports and video, and facilities that are available compared to what usually consists of fragmentary anecdotal information in the minors.
“At the major league level you have so much information, almost too much,” said Dickerson. “You not only have to learn what and how to process it, but when to get ready? Every city has a batting cage right off the dugout so you can take as many cuts as you want before you have to go in?”
“They try their best to replicate it, but they can’t. Everything is different, the crowds, the stadiums and more importantly at this level it is only about winning, not development. In the end it is about your mindset, you are either going to believe you can do it or you can’t.”
However one thing that players are expected to learn in the minors and take with them in the big leagues is not only how to deal with failure, but more importantly, how to get out of it.
Frequently slumps will send young hitters - who until this point have usually had nothing but unvarnished success - into tweaking batting stances, doubling the number of swings taken in batting cages, changing weight lifting routines…the list is endless.
After struggling in the opening months of his first two seasons in the Pirates organization he learned the value of sticking to his routine and in trusting his process, more than the results.
“When you are hitting the ball hard, you know what you are doing and just have to keep on doing it. As I got more expereince I realized that when my swing path is right I am going to hit for power and average.”
“I just got to be patient.”