Sep 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals right fielder Justin Maxwell (27) celebrates after hitting a walk off grand slam against the Texas Rangers during the 10th inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals beat the Rangers 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Battle for the Fourth Outfielder Spot

Aug 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (1) hits a RBI sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There will seemingly be few surprises when the Royals break camp and head to Detroit for Opening Day on March 31st. As of right now, the biggest battles for the Royals may be on their bench. With the starting lineup locked into place, as well as key reserves Danny Valencia and Emilio Bonifacio, it appears as though the Royals are left to determine their backup catcher and their fourth outfielder.

The battle of the fourth outfielder between Justin Maxwell and Jarrod Dyson may be the most intriguing of Spring Training. Both players have a markedly different game, with strengths and weaknesses that play against each other. In an ideal situation, Dyson and Maxwell would find themselves as part of a platoon; however, the Royals outfield does not leave an opening. Most likely, it will have to be one or the other, with one player potentially waiting in Omaha for an injury to occur.

Justin Maxwell is a right handed power bat, hitting five home runs in only 97 at bats for the Royals last season. Although he could play all three outfield positions, Maxwell has spent most of his time playing in either center or right. Maxwell has also performed better against left handed pitching throughout his career, with a .241/.358/.431 batting line against southpaws. Against right handed pitching, his power remains, but the batting line drops to .220/.287/.429.

The left handed hitting Jarrod Dyson is essentially the exact opposite. A speed merchant, Dyson has stolen 64 bases in a part time role over the past two seasons with virtually no power to speak of. Dyson has also only played in center during his entire time in the majors, despite spending time in both left and right in the minors. To continue his status as the polar opposite of Maxwell, Dyson has hit at a .266/.335/.368 rate against right handed pitching, while producing a .192/.273/.224 batting line against left handed pitching.

To further complicate matters, both players are out of minor league options. Whichever player loses the competition would need to be traded, or the Royals would risk losing them through waivers. There are also players that are fairly similar in nature offensively to either Maxwell or Dyson. Valencia, much like Maxwell, hits left handed pitching well, and qualifies as a right handed power bat off the bench. Despite Bonifacio being a switch hitter, he is much like Dyson, as both players have their entire offensive game built around their speed.

In the end, the decision may well come down to whether or not the Royals value Dyson’s speed and range over the outfield versatility and power that Maxwell can provide. Of course, if either Maxwell or Dyson catches fire during Spring Training, then the discussion is likely rendered moot. Yet, until the games start, this competition appears to be a battle of complete contrasts. Those differences are what will make the seemingly inevitable competition between Jarrod Dyson and Justin Maxwell for the fourth outfielder role fascinating.

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Tags: Jarrod Dyson Justin Maxwell Kansas City Royals

  • hemroid

    My guess is that neither of these players will be waiting in Omaha. If the Royals have to ask waivers on either one of them, I assume they would be taken by another club. So maybe it is really about who potentially moves on and who gets to stay?

    • augustoperez

      That is correct. IMPO, they will keep both. Having them both available allows a lot more flexibility when crafting a lineup and we do need as much OBP as we can. Also, on our team, Maxwell’s power is the more exotic commodity.

  • jessanders

    At this point I’d be dangling both on the line to see what I could get for them in a trade.

    If nothing else, they both make good pieces to put together with a prospect and a reliever to try and bring something back. I don’t know what Hoch+Maxwell+prospect would bring, though. Just as an example of a patchwork trade.

    That said, I’d love to have both on the team.

  • moretrouble

    Very nice article, David. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Eric Akers

    My money is on Dyson making the team with Valencia able to provide power off the bench against lefties.

    • Eric Akers

      I also don’t care for Maxwell’s inability to put the bat on the ball. He hits with power when he makes contact, but not enough in my opinion to be a good pinch hitter.

    • moretrouble

      I agree with that assessment. Valencia provides the RH hitter they need, Dyson continues to provide defensive protection for all three OF spots and will serve as the designated runner for Butler.

  • jimfetterolf

    The out-of-the-box suggestion is going with six relievers. This situation is one reason why I didn’t like the Aoki trade.

    • Ed Connealy

      Dyson by a nose, but only because Cain can not stay on the field. BUT! Both would be ideal, so I would like to see Jim’s idea happen ( 6 dudes in the pen) Royals are not out of options with their relievers. Why not see how it goes and get more time to evaluate these two guys and allow potential trade partners to do the same?

  • unclejesse40

    Seems to me like you hope they both catch fire in Spring Training and you are able to trade one of them to another desperate team. Not sure if the hot Arizona air will trick anyone but Maxwell seems like a guy to me that could have some elevated homerun numbers out there.

  • Josh

    I think you have to keep Dyson. Aoki and/ or Maxwell are not defensive solutions in center. With Cain’s propensity for injury you need a good defensive CF. When I first saw Dyson play center I thought his routes were poor but he has really improved and evolved into a plus defender.

  • Brian J.

    Dyson should go. His speed is his only asset. He has a below average bat and arm.

    • Josh

      Below average arm?

  • grantastica

    Both Dyson and Maxwell break camp on the 25 man. The Royals will go with a six man pen to start the season. With all the open dates in April, the Royals will deploy a four man rotation, essentially leaving 7 guys in the pen. This will give them some time to further evaluate the pitching corps and provide insurance against the inevitable Lo Cain injury.

  • moretrouble

    This idea of going short in the bullpen to keep both Dyson and Maxwell…well, they might do that in early April when off days are plentiful. Once the season gets going, though, they’ll fully staff their bullpen. Look at it this way — how many AB’s are there for 5 reserve position players: a catcher, two infielders and two outfielders? On the other hand, if they use 4 relievers two days in a row, they’re in trouble the third day.