With San Diego Padres’ Opening Day exactly two weeks away, Andy Green and the coaching staff are working hard to put together the final iteration of the 25-man roster. Some decisions have been easier than others. Clear starters include Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Freddy Galvis, Austin Hedges, and Manuel Margot, while several other players are still battling it out for the remaining slots.
Position battles are topics of great intrigue during spring training, and none have sparked more buzz than the ones taking place in the Padres’ outfield. With the addition of Hosmer at first base, the team was compelled to shift Myers back into the outfield. He will either occupy right or left field while Margot remains a lock in center. The result of this move is that the already stiff competition for the remaining starting, and the one to two backup spots, has gotten even stiffer.
In the thick of this fight are last year’s two starters, Jose Pirela and Hunter Renfroe. Pirela started 68 games in left field in 2017, slashing .288/.347/.490 with a wRC+ of 122. He was arguably the Padres’ best hitter last year and should deservedly be awarded a starting position in the lineup; whether that be in the outfield or the infield is up for debate. Renfroe was not as impressive. Unlike Pirela, the team had high expectations for the young right fielder and he really didn’t live up to the hype in his rookie campaign. While he did hit 26 home runs, he also slashed a pitiful .231/.284/.467, with a strikeout percentage of 28 and pretty poor defense all season long. He could be in jeopardy of riding the bench or being traded in 2018.
Other players in the running include Franchy Cordero, the Padres’ number 10 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s 2018 Prospect Watch, Travis Jankowski, who, due to nagging injuries and lackluster performance, seems to be on the outskirts of the competition, and Matt Szczur, the journeyman backup outfielder who joined the team mid-2017. To facilitate both Pirela and Renfroe, Cordero could potentially start the season in Triple-A/El Paso, Jankowski could also be sent down, and Szczur’s best shot would be only if the team decides to carry a fifth outfielder.
And that’s pretty much what it’s going to come down to.
What saddens me is the name that is omitted from this conversation; Alex Dickerson. As a San Diego native, I’m a fan of Dickerson, who is also a fellow native. I’ve been rooting for the guy since he joined the team as a prospect, but at this point, I’m sorry to say, he might not be part of the Padres’ future.
Dickerson really made his impression in 2016. He was called up from El Paso in May of that season, and proceeded to slash .257/.333/.455 with 10 home runs and a wRC+ of 112 over a span of 84 Big League games. He was looking like he could become the much needed, left-handed bat to anchor the middle of the lineup. There was certainly some excitement surrounding his potential to contribute to the Padres’ future.
It was nearly a year ago that Dickerson experienced his first major setback, when he had to be placed on the 10-day disabled list during spring training with a bulging disc in his back on April 2. For the first time, it looked like he would start the season on the 25-man roster, and suddenly it was over. His injury turned out to be worse than it was initially believed to be and his progress moved slower than was hoped for. He was eventually moved to the 60-day DL, which effectively turned into him missing the entire season. But not all hope was lost. The potential for him to return in 2018 was real and he was ready to attack his comeback during spring training. Unfortunately, luck has not been on his side.
On February 25, it was reported the Dickerson was nursing a sore elbow. Then on March 7, he was diagnosed with a UCL sprain, which is the injury that usually results in Tommy John surgery. On March 10, the report was made by Padres.mlb.com that Dickerson opted to rehab the sprained UCL in his left elbow, avoiding season-ending Tommy John surgery. Of course, if the rehab doesn’t take, he may still require the surgery. He will be out for at least the first month of the regular season, and maybe longer. This does not bode well for the 27-year-old, especially while there’s a fight for the future of the outfield taking place without him.
While Dickerson’s been out with his injuries, the Padres have addressed their lack of left-handed bats.The obvious addition is Hosmer, who is one of the best left-handed hitters in the game. The team also added Chase Headley, who as a switch hitter, offers the team another option from the left side of the plate. Cory Spangenberg, also left-handed, is another player that the team hopes will break out in 2018. Then, of course, Cordero, who is expected to spend significant time in the Padres’ outfield in the near future, boasts an exciting hitting profile from the left side as well. Unfortunately for Dickerson, what was once his greatest appeal, is no longer a need that the team has. This is probably the final nail in his coffin if he can’t recover quick enough to keep himself relevant before the outfield is locked.
I’ve written my fair share of articles making the case for Dickerson’s recovery and imminent return to field, but it seems that the sun maybe setting on his tenure with Padres. Barring some kind of miraculous recovery, he has fallen out of the team’s plans for the future.