Each month TBO provides the Kila Ka’aihue Award to one ball player who’s path to the majors has been blocked by an existing player in his position, or just by the sheer…..general discretion of the front office staff. Sure, the player may never result in a regular in the majors, but they should at least get their chance somewhere.
Starting pitching is a relatively tough area to award a Kila Ka’aihue Award to. If you pitch well enough, you are more than likely good enough to replace the major league team’s fifth starter, become an injury replacement, or will fit into the bullpen. Pitching is always needed and a decent starting pitcher is rarely blocked. But perusing through the PCL statistics I found one starter that should get an extended chance in the majors, Brandon Dickson of the Memphis Cardinals.
Amongst qualifying starting pitchers in the PCL, ”Cotton” was third in the league in WHIP (1.28) and 5th overall in ERA (3.95). Although those stats are decent, but not mind-boggling good, they have to be taken in context, the PCL is a hitter-friendly league.
FutureRedbirds.net has a very good write-up on Dickson from 2010 and he seems to have improved since then. With a low-90s sinking fastball, a curve, and an “improving changeup”, Dickson has a three pitch mix that has gotten him to Triple-A and a cup-of-coffee in St. Louis. His strikeout rate has increased each season since 2008 and his walk rate has each season since then as well.
In a recent post on Minor League Ball, John Sickels provided a preliminary ranking of the Cardinals prospects for 2012. Dickson came in 18th on the list. Sickels noted:
18) Brandon Dickson, RHP, Grade C+: You probably won’t see him this high on other lists, as an older prospect without first-class stuff. But he throws strikes, and could surprise us with a surprising run of success if given a little luck and defensive support. There are many guys with higher upside in the system that you could list here instead, but I wanted to draw notice to Dickson.
All that said, would Dickson survive as a 5th starter? It’s possible, on a poor team, but more likely he would fit in a big league team as a relief pitcher. With a move to the pen it is possible that Brandon could add a couple mph to his fastball. When combined with his already very good ground ball tendencies, Dickson may be a decent middle-relief arm in the pen down the road. He just needs an extended chance.