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Saturday, December 23, 2023

Dragons capture former Major Leaguer, Alex Dickerson

The off-season fun-ride continues as the Dragons have officially announced that former San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres outfielder, Alex Dickerson will be joining the team. The 33-year old has played in the Atlantic League and the Mexican League since last playing in the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 2022. 

Speculation about a move for Dickerson started with the Dragons savant, Twitter account Akamiso who noted that Dickerson's wife had followed the official Dragons Instagram account. Low and behold, such speculation has proven to be true. 

 Big Dickerson Energy

Dickerson's career in the majors was largely on the fringes with some good seasons mixed in. Originally drafted by the Pirates, he showed his peak in a small sample of games in 2020 while in San Francisco hitting a .947 OPS over 52 games. In 2021 he would become a regular for the Giants, but failed to be much better than league average as he hit 13 homers with an OPS+ of 97. More recently for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League, Dickerson has been prolific hitting for a .965 OPS with 26 homers and a .314 average. In Mexico with Acerero de Monclova, he wasn't quite able to translate that success and squeaked out a .701 OPS over a very small sample size of games; 12. 

Overall there's enough to suggest that he could be successful in a Dragons uniform. His career strikeout rate is below 20%, and while he hasn't shown significant proficiency with the long-ball, he fits the archetype of the kind of player the Dragons were looking for. Previous reports had the team looking for someone who could hit for contact rather than power given their disappointment in the Aristides Aquino experiment. The team had previously been linked to former Orioles and Red Sox farmhand, Aneury Tavarez, but ultimately decided to go with Dickerson. 

Dickerson has a level of familiarity with Dragons pitching coach, Akinori Otsuka. Otsuka was the pitching coaching for the AAA El Paso Chihuahua's in the Padres minor league system while Dickerson was there in 2019. It is said that this may have been a factor in the move. 

Upon signing, Dickerson comments "I'm really looking forward to playing with the Dragons. It has been my dream since I was a kid to play in Japan. I'm in awe of Japan's wonderful culture and history. I'm looking forward to playing in front of the fans,"

Outfield clusterduck?

Where does Dickerson fit in with this team however? Well, for one, he adds to ever-increasing competition for outfield spots. His signing once again shows Tatsunami's desire to have every player battling for their position on the field. Dickerson's likely home will be in left-field, although the team also see him as a first-baseman. In left-field the team have a growing amount of talent to fill those roles including legendary veteran Yohei Oshima, Kenta Bright, who lit up the Phoenix Fall League, Kosuke Ukai, who lit up the Asian Winter League, and new signing, former all-star, Seiji Uebayashi. There is no shortage of healthy competition for spots here and most of these players could also play right-field as well. The one advantage that Dickerson does have is that he add a left-handed bat. This makes his main competition, Seiji Uebayashi. The team have a line-up of righties in the middle of the order and adding a lefty wit a little bit of pop into the mix is of great importance to insure that a good right-handed pitcher can't just mow down the team's best hitters. It will be of great interest to see who emerges in these spots. If a middle infielder could start to hit better however, this would relieve some pressure, but that's another area that needs to develop. 

I think Dickerson is likely the team's opening day left fielder at present, bar injury or extremely good Spring camps from Bright, Ukai or Uebayashi. Seeing him in the #3 spot in the line-up may not be unreasonable either given Hosokawa was not often trusted there throughout the 2023 season, and it would help break-up some of the righties. Although it's possibly equally likely we see him at #5 depending on who hits #2 for the team. It will also depend on the mix of players the team will want to have on the gameday roster. At the same time Dickerson's signing was confirmed, the re-signings of Orlando Calixte, Humberto Mejia and Michael Feliz were also confirmed. Given the team can only put a maximum of four non-Japanese players on the match-day team at any one day, it would mean that someone would have to miss-out on days that Mejia starts. This could just mean tactical use of Feliz in the bullpen, or some shuffling of Calixte and Dickerson. Raidel Martinez of course is one of the first name's on the team sheet. The team can however keep five international players on the 28-man 1-gun roster at all-times, so there should be room for flexibility if the bullpen is managed well. Dayan Viciedo of course, no longer has these rules applied as he counts as a Japanese player for roster considerations given his long tenure in NPB.

What the Dickerson signing shows us is once again a building of extreme depth within the organisation. The team are spending more than they have in a decade and it's becoming clearer that more and more chips are being pushed into the middle to ensure an A-Class finish in 2024. 

Other movers and shakers

  • In slightly...other news. Our old mate who did a runner to the Dominican Republic, Yariel Rodriguez looks to have four suitors for his services in the MLB including the Yankees, Pirates, Astros and Blue Jays. Some pretty big teams there, and the Pirates. The reports have been that Y-Rod wants to be a starter. Having been out of the game for almost a year, I'm worried about how good he'll be once he makes the switch, but I believe he has the stuff to make it happen. Despite the circumstances, I'm glad one of our, albeit former, players is getting recognition in the US. 
  • In the off-season flurry the team have jettisoned the contracts of  fellow defector, Pedro Revilla and Cuban compatriot, Guillhermo Garcia. I had high hopes for Garcia in particular so it's a shame to see him leave. The Dragons however have brought in two new Cuban position players through the same deal in Christián Rodríguez and Carlos Monier. Lastly, the team confirmed they were re-signing Frank Alvarez to a development deal. 
  • Feel free to look over the current roster and allocated jersey numbers on this Wiki rosterbox page I've kept up to date. 
  • Minor controversy over the new rookie jersey numbers as #2 pick, Keishi Tsuda was given the #27 which has been worn by catchers in the organisation since the mid-1980s. Motonobu Tanishige bore the number for more than a decade while Shota Ono was the most recent holder. In a similar vein, #1 pick, Sho Kusaka received the #14 worn by such luminaries as Eiji Bando and, my BAE, Shinji Imanaka. Another almost ace number most recently vacated by Keisuke Tanimoto.
  • Please also take note that my previous post about the 2023 Salary Negotiations is now up to date with only the international players needing updates. 

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