Perhaps a surprising entrant for some after two fairly nondescript years, Brandon Dixon makes the Dodgers top prospect list thanks to a unique collection of tools for a second baseman. While no tool stands out as plus, and his present skill level leaves him short of the major leagues, Dixon flashes the potential to develop over the next couple of minor league seasons and tap into some of his offensive upside. Whether he can become an offensive oriented second baseman capable of starting at the major league level will start with bringing the same swing from batting practice into game action while working with the development staff to find an approach at the plate.
A college third baseman, Dixon saw most of his time at the High-A level at second base, where his size likely stood out for most observers. Listed at 6’2 and 215 lbs., Dixon joins a growing trend of over-sized middle infielders manning the keystone. He has the body type similar to Daniel Murphy or Neil Walker, and should provide the same credible defense for the position. Dixon’s frame and overall athleticism lends him strength potential at the plate, but it doesn’t portend to a strong arm, which pushed him across the diamond to begin with and shouldn’t be much better than average for the position. Dixon showed okay hands and footwork at third in very brief looks, but both should be better suited at second. I haven’t gotten the chance to see his footwork around the bag, but hope to this season in Tulsa.
What separates Dixon from being a more credible comparison to Murphy, or even Walker, has been his offensive output in the minor leagues to date. Despite cratering out in Low-A in his professional debut, the Dodgers deemed him fit to jump to High-A last season and he actually managed to make incremental improvements. Fans wanting to see the well rounded offensive force Dixon was as a college junior will just have to trust that the tools are still there, but in need of more refinement for the pro game. In batting practice, Dixon demonstrates a short/direct approach to the ball and smooth, a slight uppercut on extension leading to a level swing plane that keeps the bat in the zone longer than others. This swing should produce far more line drives, and potentially more power than it does. It seems to break down in two parts in the game footage at Great Lakes. For one, Dixon doesn’t show much pitch recognition and looks fairly uncomfortable in the box. This leaves him both guessing and late to react to breaking balls. Secondly, Dixon’s balance and strong follow through give way at times on contact, likely because he’s reacting later and needing to fire his hands quickly for contact. In consequence, he doesn’t drive the ball as often as he should and rolls over too many balls to the left side of the infield. Dixon’s line drive rate last season was below, 10%, which is hard to believe when you watch the batting practice swings.
When he’s going right offensively, like he was in May last season, Dixon is a well rounded offensive contributor, capable of power that could lead to 10-15 home runs over a full season and possibly more with more loft in his swing. He has the bat speed and swing to hit for a high average if he just read pitches better. He will be two seasons removed from LASIK this season, for what that is worth, and did manage to cut down his strikeouts while jumping a level. Dixon rarely drew walks and really needs help from the development staff to formulate a plan at the plate that leaves him comfortable and more selective. If he can stay balanced and drive the ball like he can in batting batting practice, Dixon could be a .280/.310/.430 hitter which would make him a 1-2 win player at the big league level, doable, but not without work from both Dixon and the player development team.
Dixon is a unique case for me as a 22-year-old with a present hit tool of 40 but a future hit tool that could reach 55 (on a 20-to-80 scale). The probability of him reaching his potential is low because of his age and production to date, but he’s made strides, no matter how small, over his 2013 season, and should have done enough in 2014 to reach Double-A Tulsa at the start of the 2015 season. It’s still too early to guess at a potential major league arrival date, and it won’t come with contact rates and type he showed last year, but he still has growth potential and plays a position that doesn’t have the highest offensive threshold. Dixon could be the first player off this list if he doesn’t hit next season, but he shows the tools to still believe in him at the moment.