If you haven’t heard, Lorenzo Cain’s rehab was derailed by a hip flexor problem, and it’s going to take a few more weeks, perhaps even a month, to get him back into the Royals lineup. This is, of course, bad news for a team that doesn’t really need more bad news.
After a hot spring, people began hoping Cain could be a faster, more defensively sound version of Melky Cabrera. At the very least, he would be a defensive upgrade and a slight offensive downgrade—a trade the Royals were obviously willing to take at a key position like center field with Cabrera’s contract considerations.
I was of the belief that Cain had the potential to be a solid .280/.320/.480 guy who plays great centerfield in a ballpark that demands speed in the outfield. Some thought he would never hit that much, but his limited track record in the majors and his productive minor league career suggest otherwise. Forget what his swing looks like; it works.
Now, what are the Royals left with? Not much. For most of Cain’s absence, they used a mix of Mitch Maier and Jason Bourgeois. Neither was very productive. Recently, they sent Bourgeois down and brought up Jarrod Dyson, who looks every bit the bench outfielder with his inability to hit big-league pitching. He started Friday, and it looks like Ned Yost is going to give him a chance to start for a while.
Here’s the thing about Dyson. Right now his numbers suck—.231/.267/.308—but I love the way he’s trying to play the game. He saved the Royals some runs in Friday’s game with a terrific sliding catch on a ball many other centerfielders wouldn’t have gotten to. He keeps hitting the ball on the ground and drawing the infield in with bunt looks. I’ve watched a few Storm Chasers games with Dyson as well, and it looks like he has the ability to be a patient hitter as well. That’s very important as a leadoff hitter. Patient, slap-hitting, good defense, that’s his ideal game. He has to be that type of player to be successful in the big leagues.
If you’d like a comparison to Dyson, think Juan Pierre. Their games should be identical if Dyson wants to be successful. Pierre’s had a lot of success in MLB and helped a lot of teams win by slapping the ball around and running. He helped lead the Marlins to a World Series championship with that style of play. If Dyson can be like Pierre, hopefully with a better arm from the outfield, he can stick as a starting center fielder.
Will that be with the Royals? I don’t know. It looks like right now, this is his tryout. If he plays out of his mind and the Royals keep winning, this disabled list stint might be a curiously long one for Cain. If I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say there’s a 10 percent chance Dyson plays well enough to usurp the starting job from Cain. But Dyson would have to play better than he has ever indicated he can. Cain has so much upside and such a rare blend of speed and power it will be difficult to take that job from him before he has a chance to prove himself. Dyson is more of a one-trick pony, but a very important trick that the Royals don’t have otherwise.
We’ll see how Dyson does with his tryout. Soon, the Royals will have to decide what to do with that situation. If Dyson plays well, he may for the Royals into a very tough decision. If he doesn’t, let’s hope his play doesn’t facilitate another nose dive and Cain gets back in time to see the Royals reach .500.