If you were to list every Dodgers player from the time he joined the organization until now, the first eight names would be:
- Kenley Jansen
- Andre Ethier
- Clayton Kershaw
- Pedro Baez
- Yimi Garcia
- Joc Pederson
- Scott Barlow
- O’Koyea Dickson
It might be too soon to cross off Andre Ethier’s name, but he is a free agent for the first time. There’s a decent chance he will not return in 2018.
Go ahead and cross off Barlow’s name. A 2011 draft pick, he pitched eight games above the Double-A level in the last six years. The Royals signed him to a major-league contract Dec. 7. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas are still free agents, but Scott Barlow is on a 40-man roster in Kansas City. Go figure.
Dickson formally moved on this week too. He’s headed to Japan to play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. I wanted to follow up on this because a few interesting things happened at the end of Dickson’s time as a Dodger that bear mention and, well, it’s a bear market.
Dickson ended the season on the 60-day disabled list with a subluxed (dislocated) left shoulder. Turns out he also had a torn labrum and a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder. He had surgery in October and believes he’ll be ready to play again in mid-April. The NPB season begins just a few weeks before that.
For those who followed Dickson’s major league career – seven games between Sept. 7 and Sept. 26, after rosters expanded – the shoulder problem seemed to materialize out of nowhere. It did not.
“I’ve had it since honestly 2015,” Dickson said in a telephone interview Friday. “I came down from big league camp, minor league camp, I was playing first base. I came off the bag to try to make a tag and my shoulder jammed up.”
Dickson said he popped the shoulder back into place that same day, a routine he would repeat “at least 10 times” over the next three seasons. The last time came in his big league debut in San Diego, reaching up for a fly ball off Wil Myers’ bat. “Whenever I dove for a ball,” he said, “I knew there would be a chance for me to sublux again.”
The shoulder bothered him while batting too, which Dickson believes contributed to his career-high 99 strikeouts (in 123 games) this season. He slashed .246/.328/.484 for Triple-A Oklahoma City after slashing .328/.398/.596 there in 2016. Some teams checked in with his agent after the Dodgers cut him loose in November, but no market materialized for him in the U.S. Japan was an easy choice, he said.
Being the eighth-longest tenured player in the organization comes with an iota of perspective. Dickson was a 12th-round draft pick in June 2011, six rounds after Barlow. Logan White was the Dodgers’ amateur scouting director then, Ned Colletti the general manager. Gabe Kapler had just retired after being cut in spring training.
To hear Dickson tell it, the regime change had a significant impact.
“Having (farm director) De Jon Watson and (minor league field coordinator) Jeter Hines was a total complete 180 once (Andrew) Friedman and Kapler came over,” Dickson said. “I felt like we were kind of caged in. I don’t think they were allowing us to be the players that we all could be. Some of the limitations were kind of on us a little bit, whether it was the clean-shaven, wearing your pants a certain way – the ‘Dodger way’ – it felt like we were limiting ourselves. No disrespect to De Jon and Jeter, that’s how they wanted the organization, or at least the minor league side, ran. Some players blossomed in it. Some players didn’t. When Friedman and Kapler came in – ‘you can be the player you want; you know what your strengths and weaknesses are; continue to better your weaknesses but we’re going to focus on your strengths’ – complete 180 for sure. It was kind of an eye-opener.”
Times change. Dickson has an infant son now. His first memories of his father’s baseball career might be made in Japan. For those on the fringes of the major leagues, like Dickson, rolling with the changes is part of the deal.