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Dickerson could be key to Rays' success in '18

After improving last season, slugger eyes more
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Corey Dickerson can carry a team's offense.

Looking forward to the 2018 season, he is a guy in the lineup who can make the difference between going to the postseason or not. He's that good.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Corey Dickerson can carry a team's offense.

Looking forward to the 2018 season, he is a guy in the lineup who can make the difference between going to the postseason or not. He's that good.

Most everybody gushed last year when Dickerson showed up at camp 25 pounds lighter. While his uniform fit better and he moved around the bases more quickly, the takeaway was more about being professional. Dickerson is the consummate pro. Continuing to improve drives him.

"I feel completely different," Dickerson said midway through the 2017 season. "The way I run, the way I move, the quickness. ... I didn't lift any dumbbells. All my workouts were flexibility, range of motion -- the way I throw, the way I hit. I should have more range of motion, and that's really what I focused on. Working out smartly and not just going in there to lift. Now my swing is quicker. The ball comes off the bat better with more range of motion. And the way I throw is different. I think it all benefited me."

In 2016, Dickerson's first season with the Rays, he hit .245 with 24 home runs and 70 RBIs. He played 78 games in the field, but he was the team's primary DH.

Dickerson finished the 2017 campaign at .282 with 27 home runs and 62 RBIs, along with 33 doubles and four triples. Those numbers showed quite an improvement. However, the understated native of Mississippi wants more.

Dickerson is confident in his abilities, so the way he finished the 2017 season did not sit well with him. In the first half, he hit .312 with 17 home runs and 42 RBIs. After the break, he hit .241 with 10 home runs and 20 RBIs.

There's little coincidence that the Rays went 47-43 before the break before finishing with a 33-39 run. In other words, when Dickerson's hitting, the chances of Tampa Bay winning are much better than when the left-handed-hitting slugger is scuffling.

Fans can tell when Dickerson is in a groove. He's hitting the ball to all areas of the field -- with power.

Harnessing that swing will be the key in 2018. Dickerson had his best season in '14 while with the Rockies, when he hit .312 with 24 home runs and 76 RBIs. There's reason to believe he can continue to show improvement with the Rays next season.

Dickerson loves to hit, but he loves to win more.

"All I'm worried about is helping the team and bringing what I can bring to the table and be excited about being with my teammates and getting to know the new guys," Dickerson said. "It's about winning ballgames and contributing."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tampa Bay Rays, Corey Dickerson