PEORIA, Ariz.—Where Brandon Dixon will play defensively is a question for which many are trying to find an answer. As long as the 24-year-old Reds farmhand keeps hitting though, someone will find a spot for hi.
Dixon turned around a 94-mph fastball from James Kaprielian for a towering two-run home run to left field in his first at-bat Thursday afternoon, setting the tone for Peoria’s 5-4 victory over Scottsdale in Arizona Fall League play.
The home run was Dixon’s first this fall after he hit 16 for Double-A Pensacola during the regular season.
“I was actually joking before the game how I hadn’t hit one in the fall,” said Dixon, who finished 1-for-3 with the homer and a walk. “I felt like it was about time, so I was glad to get that one out of the way. Fastball middle in, I just tried to put a good swing on it, and the rest took care of itself.”
Dixon, a third-round pick by the Dodgers in 2013 out of Arizona, has a track record of hitting. He delivered the game-winning double in the ninth that gave the Wildcats the College World Series title as a sophomore in 2012, won the Pac-12 batting title as a junior one year later, and was one home run short of a 20-20 season in the Dodgers organization in 2015.
Defensively, things have been inconsistent.
Dixon was drafted as a third baseman, moved to second base in his first full professional season, saw significant action in center field and right field this year, and is now playing first base primarily in the Fall League.
It’s been a constant challenge learning new positions, but Dixon is taking it all in stride as to not affect his offense.
“Anywhere I can play that I can stay in the lineup I’m happy,” Dixon said. “I think a big thing is just separating defense from offense. When you’re in the box you’re not a third baseman, you’re not a first baseman, you’re just hitting. I think that’s kind of the goal that I’ve had all along.”
Dixon’s offense did take a hit at one point. He struggled with the initial jump to Double-A with Los Angeles and was traded to the Reds prior to 2016 as part of the three-team deal that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox.
The trade did Dixon good. He hit .260/.315/.434 with 16 homers, 65 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Pensacola in the pitcher-friendly Southern League, and is up to a .319/.396/.468 slash line in the Fall League. He strikes out plenty (137 in 118 games this season) but still hit enough to deliver respectable production across the board.
“There’s been some up and down, but that’s part of baseball,” Dixon said. “Some guys move up quick and some guys take some time. Everyday if I come out and I keep working and make adjustments, I think I have a good shot.”
If he keeps mashing fastballs from top-tier pitching prospects like he did on Thursday, that shot is increasingly likely to come for Dixon no matter what position he plays.
“It’s been emphasized a lot to me (if I keep hitting there will be a spot),” he said. “I think if you look at any of the good big league teams, any good player, if they hit, they’re going to find a position. So I think taking care of that, and being able to give a manager some flexibility to play me in some different spots, helps.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Scottsdale infielder and Yankees top prospect Gleyber Torres went 3-for-4 with three singles, one each to the left side, up the middle, and the opposite way into right field. He also made a highlight-reel defensive play at second base, snagging a hard grounder up the middle and throwing across his body to first base while falling away for the out.
• Peoria righthander Dylan Unsworth (Mariners) earned the win after pitching five innings with two runs allowed, no walks and five strikeouts. He did allow seven hits, but all but one were singles. The South African is making up for lost time in the Fall League after missing the second half with a slight tear in his right hamstring. Unsworth pounded the strike zone, throwing 49 of his 64 pitches for strikes, with 88-90 mph fastballs and sinkers, low 80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs. He improved to 3-1, 3.00 in six AFL starts.
• Kaprielian (Yankees) lasted 4.1 innings and gave up five runs on three hits and two walks. He flashed excellent stuff with a 94-96 mph fastball, 85-87 mph slider and 82-83 mph changeup but did not consistently locate. He is now 1-3, 5.16 in six AFL starts. He has also surrendered four home runs in his last 13.1 innings.