Padres outfielder Alex Dickerson has been diagnosed with a “disc protrusion” in his back, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Twitter links). Fortunately, surgery won’t be required at this time, though a timeline for a return is uncertain. According to Lin, Dickerson will sit for about three or four weeks before being evaluated again by the team’s medical staff.
The news makes it all but certain that Dickerson won’t command an Opening Day roster spot for the Friars, who have numerous competitors vying for outfield roles in camp. The 26-year-old, who hits from the left side, had made a strong case for a MLB job with his .257/.333/.455 showing in 285 plate appearances in 2016. But with just one game of spring action under his belt to this point, it seems reasonable to anticipate that the organization will give Dickerson time to work back to full health before considering him for the major league roster once more.
Even with Dickerson sidelined to start the year, the Padres will still face some interesting questions in determining the outfield mix. Up the middle, the team will likely decide whether to open the year with prospect Manuel Margot in the majors; otherwise, Travis Jankowski would figure to take that job. Cory Spangenberg, who also plays the infield, is another 40-man player with a lefty bat who could factor in the corner mix, Lin notes on Twitter, while minor-league free agents Rafael Ortega and Nick Buss are also in camp. Another southpaw-swinging non-roster option, Brett Wallace, seems to face an uphill battle to claim a role as a bench bat.
On the right-handed side of the equation, Hunter Renfroe could well be slated for a full showcase in the majors. But with Dickerson’s absence, there may now also be room for hot-hitting slugger Jabari Blash. He has swatted five home runs and drawn six walks while slashing .308/.441/.885 thus far, continuing a strong Triple-A showing in 2016. Jack-of-all-trades Christian Bethancourt functions as a wild card, with MiLB free agent signee Collin Cowgill also perhaps a factor, though he has struggled in his limited game action thus far. Lin notes that infielder Allen Cordoba, a Rule 5 pick, might also see some time on the grass.
Regardless of who cracks the roster to start the season, the Padres figure to retain plenty of flexibility as it unfolds. All of the 40-man members listed above (excluding Bethancourt) have options remaining. In Dickerson’s case, though, he’s entering his final option year, so he’ll need to work his way back to the majors and earn an opportunity to establish his place in San Diego’s future plans.