Tigers acquire 19-year-old LHP Blake Dickerson from the Padres

Bless You Boys

The great prep draft of 2023 continued on Saturday, almost seven months after the actual draft ended. The Detroit Tigers have acquired 19-year-old left-hander Blake Dickerson from the San Diego Padres in exchange for $500,000 in international bonus pool money from the current signing period.

Much was made of the Tigers 2023 draft and the fact that nearly half the players they picked were straight out of high school. Whatever you think about taking Max Clark over Wyatt Langford with the third overall pick, going prep heavy in the rest of the draft is a good way to get a lot more upside than by taking a bunch of solid college players without significant upside. There’s more risk of a bust, but not so much more than is present with any pick beyond the top guys in any draft class. The reward, however, can be a lot greater.

It’s of course notable that the Tigers new amateur scouting director, Mark Conner, was AJ Preller’s scouting director and then a special assistant to him with the San Diego Padres. Clearly there are philosophical similarities at work as the Padres often go pretty prep heavy themselves, drafting many, and figuring out later how to sign as many as possible. Conner and Tigers Vice-President of Scouting, Rob Metzler, took the same tack in their first draft for the Tigers in 2023.

The Padres picked Dickerson in the 12th round out of high school in 2023. The Virginia native was considered a difficult sign unless he was offered second or third round money to break his commitment to Virginia Tech. The Padres selected him in the 12th round anyway, and he ultimately signed for $500,000, essentially a late fourth round slot bonus. That was the biggest bonus to any draftee outside of the top 10 rounds. Now the Tigers have paid the same amount in international bonus pool money to acquire Dickerson in trade. So they appear to value the player similarly.

Why did the Padres trade him when he hasn’t yet thrown a pro game for them? Hard to say, but my guess is that they have a really good class of international free agents to sign in the next IFA signing period, and wanted extra firepower to sign their guys. The Tigers are keyed in on Dominican outfielder Cris Rodriguez to lead their 2025 IFA class, and he’s set to be the club’s biggest ever acquisition in that realm. So perhaps the Tigers are less concerned about the rest of the class as compared to using the money to acquire Dickerson.

One would assume, based on this trade and how the Tigers conducted their first draft, that they liked Dickerson too, but assumed they wouldn’t be able to sign him. They were able to lock up most of the prep players they drafted with some creative money management, and now they’ve circled back to land Dickerson on top of the rest of the class. As a result, they now have two really good left-handed prep pitching prospects out of the draft class in Dickerson and third round pick, Paul Wilson, who they paid $1.7M for in a serious overslot deal.

There’s a lot to like in the young lefty. Our own David Rosenberg, who does a lot of prep baseball coverage in Florida, snorted a bit hearing Dickerson described as “projectible” because 18-19 year olds are by definition “projectible” or no one would bother.

However, Dickerson stands out in that regard with a skinny 6’6” 210 pound frame that can clearly add another 30-40 pounds of good muscle in pro ball over the next few years. He already has outstanding spin efficiency and good induced vertical break numbers, packs a really good slider, and is regarded as a smart young pitcher and student of the game. The hope is that he’ll eventually be a hard-throwing lefty starter. On draft day, he was still sitting 90-92 mph, and topping out at 93 mph with a smooth easy motion out of the stretch. In time you’d expect 95 with extra in the tank on his fourseam fastball. With that frame and his athleticism, that seems very likely.

All in all, this is a good pickup for the Tigers, and adds another advanced teenager to the mix of players who will be looked to for the next wave of talent from the farm once the club’s excellent stockpile of upper level talent graduates this season and next. Since the Tigers have largely struck out in the international free agent market, spending the money here instead of on a 16-year-old makes plenty of sense.

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