It might be hard to believe now, but Alex Dickerson
tried switch-hitting as a high school freshman just so he could avoid having to stand in against left-handed pitchers.
"I didn't want anything to do with them," the Bradenton first baseman recalled. "But I couldn't hit right-handed."
Dickerson certainly can hit left-handed, though, and it doesn't matter whether there's a lefty or righty on the mound.
"I guess I didn't need to try to switch-hit," Dickerson said. "It turned out it wasn't that hard to hit left-handers."
Just look at the Minor League numbers for the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 13 prospect since he was taken in the third round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Dickerson hit better against lefties (.333) than righties (.306) last year in the Class A Short-Season New York-Penn League, and he has nearly equal splits this year.
The former Big Ten Player of the Year at Indiana was hitting .292 against right-handed pitchers and .282 again lefties through Monday in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, his overall average .289 in 94 games.
Dickerson has also been consistent in his home-and-road splits, batting .286 at McKechnie Field and .291 away. But there was one significant disparity in his stats line, and it was very much a positive one.
The 22-year-old California native was batting .347 with runners on and .321 when he had someone in scoring position. That's why he led the FSL with 72 RBIs.
"I've been able to rise to the occasion," Dickerson said. "Hitting with runners on is something I've really been concentrating on."
The secret is the same one that allows him to hit well against lefties. Although he's a slugger, Dickerson is disciplined at the plate and uses all parts of the field.
"I've always been able to hit the ball to the opposite field," he said. "I was fortunate to have some great coaches, and they really helped me."
Dickerson played on youth teams in suburban San Diego with the sons of former Major Leaguer Tom Brunansky and one-time Padres scouting director Reggie Waller, getting personal attention from both. And his high school hitting coach at Poway was Deron Johnson Jr., son of the former player and manager.
"Just blind luck," said Dickerson, who used the extra tutelage to earn a scholarship to IU and then made the most of it.
He hit .370 as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, won the Triple Crown with a .419 average, 24 homers and 75 RBIs as a sophomore and hit .367 while taking All-Big Ten honors for a third straight year as a junior.
But Dickerson -- a college left fielder and designated hitter -- was a question mark on defense, and that is why he was available to the Pirates in the third round.
"It didn't hurt my feelings when they asked me to move to first base," Dickerson said. "I knew I didn't have a lot of speed or a great arm."
Dickerson is still a work-in-progress defensively, as attested by his 14 errors.
"Some games, it still might look like I don't know what I'm doing," he said. "But I think I've made a lot of progress -- I'm definitely getting better."
Dickerson, who had 23 doubles, three triples and eight homers, is also still to realize his full power potential.
It is certainly there, though, as evidenced by Dickerson's breakout game against Brevard County on June 4. He was 5-for-6 with two homers, a double and six RBIs in the 14-7 victory.
"I'm not worried about my home runs," he said. "When I start turning on the ball more, the homers will come."
The Pirates have had problems at first base for years, and Dickerson could be a long-term solution. For now, he is enjoying the turnaround in Pittsburgh from afar.
Bradenton leads the second-half standings in the FSL's North Division, and the Pirates are also battling for first place in the National League Central.
"Everyone is excited about what is going on up there," Dickerson said.
Mahtook promoted: Charlotte outfielder Mikie Mahtook, No. 80 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery by Tampa Bay. He was hitting .290 with 27 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 92 games. Mahtook, 22, was the 31st overall pick in the 2011 Draft out of Louisiana State University and is the Rays' No. 3 prospect.
Black on DL: Jupiter shortstop Danny Black went to the disabled list with a sprained right wrist after following up a .348 average in June by hitting .310 in the first 15 games of July. He was hitting .314 with 20 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 78 games. Black, 23, was a 14th-round pick by the Marlins in the 2010 Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.
Biddle goes eight: Clearwater left-hander Jesse Biddle worked a season-high eight innings in a victory at Charlotte while improving his record to 6-4 and lowering his ERA to 3.21. He allowed a run on seven hits, walked one and struck out eight. Biddle, 20, is second in the FSL to teammate Adam Morgan with 104 strikeouts in 101 innings. He is Philadelphia's No. 2 prospect and ranks No. 65 overall on the MLB.com Top 100 list.
Saves leader returns: Danny Barnes returned to Dunedin after making just one appearance for Double-A New Hampshire and recorded his FSL-leading 23rd save in his first outing. Wes Etheridge set the Dunedin record with 32 saves last season. Barnes, 22, has appeared in 37 games and has a 1.91 ERA with 45 strikeouts to 14 walks in 37 2/3 innings.
Alcantara sidelined: Daytona shortstop Arismendy Alcantara, one of the hottest hitters in the FSL, went on the disabled list with a leg injury shortly after a four-hit game. The switch-hitter had batted .337 since the All-Star break to raise his average to .302. Alcantara, 20, had 13 doubles, seven triples, seven homers, 51 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.