By now, you’ve probably heard Jarrod Dyson‘s story. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read this article from Dick Kaegel on everything Dyson went through growing up, and what he’s had to face to get to where he is now. It’s nearly impossible to not root for a guy like Dyson, if only because of his story. Luckily for the Royals, however, Dyson is much more than his story.
He’s an incredibly valuable baseball player, too.
This season, Dyson has already amassed 2.1 fWAR, despite appearing in only 53 of the team’s 79 games. Many people consider 2 WAR players to be roughly league-average, and Dyson has surpassed that mark in about one-third of a season’s work. And it’s not just value accumulated on the basepaths, either. He has stolen 12 bases, of course, but Dyson is doing it all this year. He’s played elite-level defense in center field, and he’s hit at almost a league-average level (95 wRC+).
Add it all together, and you have the league’s 11th most valuable outfielder, even though Dyson’s accumulated approximately 100 fewer plate appearances than all of the players ahead of him.
Dyson first started getting more playing time when Lorenzo Cain went on the disabled list, but the struggles and subsequent injury of Nori Aoki have thrust Dyson into an even more prominent role. He’s essentially become an everyday player. Granted, he’s in a platoon situation with Justin Maxwell at the moment, but Dyson is getting the bulk of the plate appearances, and even on his off-days, he can be used as a defensive replacement or pinch runner.
I do want to touch on Dyson’s defense for a moment, because it’s something I’ve seen many people criticize in the last couple of years, and I’ve always been confused by that criticism. I’ll admit he used to not get great jumps, but his speed helped make up so much ground, it was impossible for him to be a bad defender. He may not have always taken the most efficient routes, but he has always been an above average defensive center fielder.
In the last couple of years, though, Dyson has improved his reads, and he’s now not having to rely solely on his blazing speed to cover ground. He’s been a joy to watch in the field for several years, but he’s taken it to another level recently.
Because of his development, the Royals find themselves in an interesting position. Once Aoki returns from the disabled list, Maxwell will likely be designated for assignment, leaving the team to decide the best way to move forward. Based upon the histories of both Dyson and Aoki, I think maintaining a platoon would be the safest bet.
If you’re noticing that Dyson and Aoki both bat left-handed, don’t be alarmed. While Dyson does have a normal split this season and in his career, Aoki’s platoon splits are reversed in both instances. In fact, for as poorly as Aoki has hit overall, the one thing he’s done better than any other Royal is hit left-handed pitching. Facing southpaws this season, Aoki has a 139 wRC+, but his production against righties has been much worse – 64 wRC+.
Dyson, on the other hand, has a 95 wRC+ against right-handed pitching in his career, and he’s sitting at 104 this season. Against lefties, Dyson has a career 37 wRC+, and it’s 42 this season. Obviously there are some sample size issues at play this year, but both players do exhibit the same kind of splits in their career. Aoki has historically been much better against righties than he has been in 2014, but his best offensive numbers have come against lefties.
A platoon simply makes too much sense.
While I do expect Aoki to improve this season, the Royals ought to recognize that Dyson is providing so much more value in every aspect of the game. Dyson would be getting the majority of the plate appearances, and Aoki could still be available to come off the bench when needed. On the days when the Royals face a lefty, Dyson could enter the game as a defensive replacement or a pinch runner, where he can provide even more value.
Dyson has really burst into the spotlight this season, and his emergence as a key contributor will force the Royals to find a way to keep him on the field after Aoki comes back from the disabled list. Fortunately for the team, the two players complement each other quite well, and the pair’s skillset offers the Royals an easy solution. Platooning Dyson and Aoki would be a very effective way to get the most out of both players’ abilities.