At the onset of spring training, Chris Dickerson (seen left high-fiving Wilkin Castillo after Dickerson's HR Monday against Ben Sheets) put himself way out there by spouting off about why he wasn't given a better chance to win the center field job and why Drew Stubbs was basically handed the position. It made waves around the internet and even with Dusty Baker. He not only got himself in some hot water with Dusty, but really put his own neck on the line.
However, he has really backed up his bold talk this spring. So far through nine games, Dickerson is blistering the baseball to the tune of a .429 average. Furthermore, he is driving the ball as well as his .714 slugging percentage shows. He has struck out five times in 22 plate appearances, but I'm pretty sure the Reds could forgive that if he were to continue the hot hitting, which includes his .455 OBP.
The incumbent, Drew Stubbs, has not gotten off to a very good start this spring. Again, it's early, but Stubbs, who was basically anointed the center fielder for Opening Day before spring camp even started, is only hitting .100 with seven strikeouts to boot. Could the pressure really be getting to Stubbs in his first real official camp as a Cincinnati Red? So far, you'd have to say yes. Now, in his defense, Stubbs started slowly last year when he got the call up. Over time, he really came on, but still his average was just that - average - and he failed to make contact a lot of the time. The Reds were forgiving because of the surprising power numbers and his excellence in the field. But, if Dickerson is going to do this, and Stubbs is going to continue to struggle, the Reds are going to have to do the smart thing and make Dickerson the full-time center fielder.
Now, there are a few things against Dickerson. First of all, he doesn't hit lefties very well. In his career, he hits .259 against lefties, which isn't awful and it's only been 58 total at bats. Last season, he hit just .243 and in the minors, he notoriously struggled against lefties as well.
Secondly, Dickerson has missed gobs of time due to injuries. Chris went on the D.L. twice last year with a shoulder and ankle injuries. He missed more time with a head injury. In the 2008 season, he missed the final nine games of the year after he fractured his heel. Now, I'm not suggesting he's soft. In no way am I doing that. I'm just saying he gets hurt an awful lot and talented or not, the Reds need him to stay healthy or he's going to be out of a job.
As for who gets the Opening Day start in center, we'll just have to let the rest of the spring play itself out. But, there is no denying that Chris Dickerson has launched himself right into the thick of things and it's with his bat, not his mouth.