Rockies Prospect Roundup: Inside Corey Dickerson's hitting streak

by Charlie Drysdale

Rockies prospect Corey Dickerson is in the midst of a 16-game hitting streak in Triple-A Colorado Springs. Inside this streak we take a look at what got him there and some of the obstacles he’s had to overcome.

The 16-game hitting streak of which Corey Dickerson is in the middle isn't his first. He had multiple streaks last season, hitting in 18 and 14 games consecutively in Modesto. He then capped off his year with a 12-game hitting streak in the Arizona Fall League. This season's streak is different however, because he's no longer in High-A facing pitchers with limited repertoires. Corey has come a long way in a short time, but really all he's doing is showing up every day ready to hit.

The Rockies liked Corey so much they drafted him twice, in the 29th round of the 2009 draft and then again in the eighth round of the 2010 draft - where he was signed out of Meridian Community College in Meridian, Mississippi. Corey put up a 1.046 OPS in 69 games with Casper before moving on to Asheville and hitting 32 home runs. Critics questioned Corey's ability after Asheville however, when it was revealed he had a strong home/road split, hitting for a 1.261 OPS in Asheville and a mere .643 away, many wondered if he had been taking advantage of McCormick Field's hitter-friendly dimensions.

"Dickerson, that was a laser. I didn't think that ball was going to get out of the park. But he's hit his whole life, one of those guys that can flat-out hit." -Rockies manager Walt Weiss on a Dickerson home run in spring training.

Last season, Corey started the year in High-A Modesto where he answered the critics by leading the Nuts in nearly every offensive category and earning a mid-season promotion. He played the second half of 2012 in Double-A Tulsa, where his left-handed bat enjoyed the short right field porch of Tulsa's ONEOK field and he slugged 13 home runs.

The promotion to Triple-A may have been a surprise to the average fan who expected Corey to repeat in Tulsa where he left off last year. At 24, he's one of the youngest hitters on the Sky Sox roster; Nolan Arenado is two years younger and Charlie Culberson is a month younger. Despite his age, a hot spring showed the Rockies that he was ready for some tougher work.

With his turn through the Pacific Coast League, Dickerson has encountered a handful of pitchers considered to be not only MLB-ready, but top-flight prospects as well. On April 14th, Corey faced off against Mets prospect Zack Wheeler in Las Vegas. Wheeler came to the Mets organization from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade and was ranked by John Sickels as the fifth-best pitching prospect in baseball. Wheeler throws a 98 mile-per-hour fastball with the best slider in the Mets organization as ranked by Baseball America. Dickerson had no trouble against Wheeler, going 2-for-3 with a triple.

The next tough opponent Corey faced was on April 18th in Reno, against Diamondbacks prospect Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs had struggled in his 2012 debut with Arizona, but was still ranked as the ninth best pitching prospect by John Sickels. He is a left-handed pitcher with a profile similar to Tyler Anderson in the fact he throws 91-93 and has an excellent curve and changeup. Skaggs had allowed only one hit on his way to an eight strikeout game when Dickerson faced him in the fourth with a runner on first. That's when Corey laced a ball into deep left field that was later scored a triple, but could have been ruled an inside-the-park home run. That hit was Corey's only one of the day, as he ended up 1-for-3.

The talented Mr. Dickerson

The only top ranked pitcher Corey hasn't hit well was the Mets prospect Jeurys Familia. Familia was ranked 37th by Sickels, but has since been moved to the bullpen and received a call-up to New York on April 15th. Familia profiles similar to Chad Bettis where he can touch 100 and has a nasty slider, but less control than Chad. Familia faced Corey in two relief appearances, holding him to 0-for-1 with a walk.

Probably the toughest challenge for any hitter is pinch hitting, which usually involves coming in cold off the bench against a late innings flamethrower. For instance, Rockies PH's this season have gone 6-for-34 with a .176 average. Out of Dickerson's 16 games, he has three PH appearances where he's gone 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. Not a problem for Corey.

Part of the reason Dickerson has done well in the current streak has been his ability to cut down on strikeouts. His 10.6 K% is one of the best in the PCL. That part of his game has come along way since he was at 22.8% while in Casper and struck out 99 times in Asheville.

As impressive as Corey's 1.049 OPS in his 16 games this year, he's actually showing slightly less power than normal. His career Isolated Slugging is .284 and this season he sits at a mere .250. That still ranks as one of the better ratings in the Pacific Coast League.

The problem for Corey is there isn't room for him in the Rockies current outfield, unless EY Jr. is moved to a bench role with Cuddyer starting at first base full-time. Plus the Sky Sox outfield is stocked with quality outfielders who are already on the 40 man roster. However, Corey's line drive ability would play well on the road, where he's hitting 20 points higher than at home this season. His road average is actually higher than his home in every level above Asheville and who's to say what that bat could do in Coors Field.

Hot Pitchers in the System

Both Chad Bettis and Eddie Butler have performed well this past week, earning high Game Scores (GScr). A GScr is a stat developed by Bill James that grades pitchers on how deep they go into a game and effectiveness. Bettis pitched into the seventh inning of a double-header game on Wednesday, striking out 11 and earning a GScr of 72. Bettis was strong in his start, hitting the mid-90's on his fastball and showing a nasty-sharp slider.

Butler took a shutout into the eighth inning last night, allowing only a single and four walks with a GScr of 82. His first two starts netted a 72 and 71, respectively, which is quite impressive when compared against last year's South Atlantic League darling Dylan Bundy, whose highest GScr in 2012 was 74. Bundy was also ranked the top pitching prospect in baseball by Keith Law and John Sickels this year.

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