The Colorado Rockies simply could not ignore him any longer.
Corey Dickerson was leading the Pacific Coast League with a staggering .386 at Triple A-Colorado Springs before Colorado finally decided that he was ready to make his big league debut. If Dickerson was intimidated by the leap to the majors, he certainly didn’t show it.
Dickerson ripped his first base hit towards the left-center field gap in his first at bat in the first inning on Saturday afternoon. Washington Nationals starting pitcher Dan Haren left a fastball out over the plate, and Dickerson hit a hard liner that tailed away from Washington center fielder Denard Span. The hit looked like it was going to be a single, but Dickerson went hard the whole way and ended up narrowly making it to second base with an RBI double in his first big league at bat.
Dickerson followed that up with another double — this time down the right field line — in his second at bat and finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. All in all, it was a very successful debut for the rookie outfielder.
However, the excitement of a successful major league debut will soon give way to the stark reality of a crowded Colorado outfield. Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler are mainstays in the lineup and will not be losing any playing time unless they’re hurt. Michael Cuddyer is the third-best hitter on the team, behind only Gonzalez and the injured Troy Tulowitzki. Currently, the Rockies are having a hard enough time trying to get fourth outfielder Tyler Colvin more playing time, and he is more defensively versatile than Dickerson is.
From a pragmatic point of view, the most obvious answer to this question would be moving Cuddyer to first base and turning Todd Helton into a part-time player.
Now, this is unlikely to go over well with Rockies fans. Helton is Mr. Rockie. When he retires — hopefully soon – he will be the only notable player in franchise history to play his entire career with the team.
But the brutal truth is that Helton has just flat-out stunk this season. His -0.6 WAR is the worst of any player on the Rockies. For years, the popular argument was that Helton’s defense made up for his declining hitting skills, but he no longer plays first base at what can even be considered a league average level. Simply put, if Todd Helton was a 25-year-old call-up playing the way he is right now, he would have been either sent down or released long ago.
The other part of this puzzle is that Michael Cuddyer is a sneaky-awful outfielder. A strong arm and a reputation for “playing the game right” obscures the fact that Cuddyer covers less ground than just about every other outfielder in baseball. Cuddyer can still help the team, but he can help a lot more from first base than he can from right field.
It’s in the Rockies best interest, both short and long term, to find out if Colvin or Dickerson are pieces that they can build around. If the Rockies are going to move forward, chances are it will have more to do with those two than with Cuddyer or Helton.