Typically, one imagines a leadoff hitter as a speedster, capable of burning up the bases when they get on. While Corey Dickerson does not fit that mold, he may have an inside track to being the Tampa Bay Rays next leadoff hitter.
When Logan Forsythe was traded to the Dodgers, the focus was on how the Tampa Bay Rays needed to replace their second baseman. None of the free agent options were particularly attractive, and it did not make sense for the Rays to trade for another veteran. In time, the Rays decided to move Brad Miller to second, his third position change in a year.
When Forsythe was traded, it opened another void for the Rays. He had served as the team’s leadoff hitter last season, and now, there was an opening atop the lineup. In theory, this would be the time for Kevin Kiermaier to take over as the Rays leadoff hitter, but his offense is still a work in progress. So, the top spot in the lineup has become a bit of an open audition.
That is, it was an open audition. Coery Dickerson, who has not stolen a base since 2014 and appears better suited for the middle of the lineup, has taken to that role in Spring Training. Right now, as everything stands, Dickerson may actually be the front runner to be the Rays leadoff man when the season begins.
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A look at Dickerson’s numbers last year may not lead one to expect much from him in a leadoff role. In 2016, he had a .245/.293/.469 batting line, drawing 33 walks and striking out 134 times in 548 plate appearances. Dickerson’s 24 home runs were nice, but leadoff hitters need to get on base.
Thus far in the Spring, he has taken steps to change his offensive profile. Dickerson has taken more pitches than usual, while working to improve his contact rates. Likewise, Dickerson has been looking to improve against lefties, a key to keeping his bat in the lineup.
If that progress can be made, then Dickerson has a chance to stick in the role. When he is on, he is certainly a dangerous presence in the lineup, even though his power potential seems better suited to possibly protect Evan Longoria. And if Kiermaier can develop his offense sufficiently, that may well happen this season. That will not stop Dickerson from enjoying his time atop the lineup however.
Corey Dickerson is not a prototypical leadoff hitter, but he does not need to be. If he can get on base and provide some punch, the Tampa Bay Rays will be more than pleased with the results.