Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Preview: Corey Dickerson

Our 40 in 40 series, which takes a look at each player on the 40 man roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates, continues today with a look at Corey Dickerson.

Before the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson on Feb. 22, they appeared to be doing the opposite of what management had consistently preached: the Pirates were in a transition phase but believed that they could compete for a playoff spot in 2018.

With home-grown players Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole not longer with the franchise, the Pirates didn’t seem to be in a contending phase. It seemed like the franchise would be looking to lose games and gain a higher draft pick. The N.L. Central looks to be competitive, so looking ahead to contention in the future seemed wiser than taking a shot in the dark in 2018.

However, the acquisition of 2017 All-Star Dickerson changed things. Dickerson became available when the Tampa Bay Rays underwent a more public and extensive overhaul. The price to get Dickerson was only reliever Daniel Hudson and minor-league second baseman Tristan Gray.

The Pirates may still be looking ahead to the future, but if Dickerson performs the way he has in the past few seasons and other variables on the team sort themselves out, Pittsburgh could find itself in playoff contention.

Replacing McCutchen’s production

When comparing their stats over the last few seasons, Dickerson’s numbers rank comparable to McCutchen’s. In the last three seasons, Dickerson has averaged 112-weighted runs created (wRC+) while McCutchen has averaged 123 wRC+ in the same span. Both players were just above league-average run-producers in 2016 before reverting back to their previous forms.

In terms of power, Dickerson (51) has only hit one less home run than McCutchen (52) over the last two seasons. Dickerson and McCutchen had identical .107 Isolated Power figures in 2017 and Dickerson had higher figures in each of the previous four seasons.

McCutchen’s numbers are slightly better, but Dickerson has been making less money and performed similarly. McCutchen is making $14.75-million this season while Dickerson only makes $5.95-million. McCutchen is also a free agent after this season, while Dickerson has another year of arbitration. He’s valuable as a trade asset due to the extra year of control.

As a result, for a team in a transition phase like the Pirates but won’t admit it, they have options with Dickerson that they wouldn’t have had with McCutchen this season.

Left-field: solved

In addition to replacing McCutchen’s production, the Pittsburgh Pirates found their new left fielder with Dickerson. With Starling Marte moving to center field to take McCutchen’s spot, there was an opening for someone else to peruse the spacious left-field grass at PNC Park.

Initially, it appeared that Adam Frazier would take this spot, but now he moves into a bench role. Frazier surely would prefer to start, but having him as a bat off the bench is huge for manager Clint Hurdle.

Frazier, who at times struggled when playing too much last season, will get another opportunity work his way into the lineup and prove he belongs. As for Dickerson, he provides a more established player with a strong pedigree in recent years.

Furthermore, Dickerson rates as an improved defender over the last two seasons. He posted negative Ultimate Zone Ratings in each of his first three seasons as a left fielder with the Colorado Rockies. With the Rays, he posted positive figures in both seasons with them. He went from a -4.9 UZR in 2015 with Colorado to a 6.1 UZR in 2016 with Tampa.

At the vast PNC Park left field, Dickerson’s range will be tested. If he can manage left field the same way that he did with the Rays and be a productive bat, this trade will be one of Neal Huntington’s finest.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons

Joel Norman

Joel Norman is a journalism major at West Virginia University. In addition to writing for Pirates Breakdown, Joel covers WVU sports for the Daily Athenaeum and writes game recaps and features for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Joel also does play-by-play broadcasts of WVU hockey and baseball for WWVU-FM in Morgantown.