Will Jarrod Dyson finally be given the opportunity to start at the Major League level for the Kansas City Royals?
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the projected starting lineup.
So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young, Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen, Luke Hochevar, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Wade Davis, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Christian Colon, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain
Today, we will be looking at Jarrod Dyson
2015 stats – .250/.311/.380, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 26 SB, 88 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR
2016 Steamer – .250/.309/.341, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 34 SB, 78 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR
Projected Role – Starting Right Fielder (Projected to open season on the DL)
At this point, no, Jarrod Dyson will not begin the season as the Royals starting right fielder. However, before his oblique injury which will sideline him until mid-to-late April, Ned Yost had indicated that it was his job to lose.
With his competition being Paulo Orlando, Reymond Fuentes, and Jose Martinez, the assumption was that he wouldn’t lose that job. At the very least, he would platoon with Orlando. Then the oblique injury happened and that plan is now up in the air.
When he does return, though, he will likely get a chance to work back into that role, unless Orlando comes firing out of the gates. Based on his 2015 performance, this outcome will more or less be a battle of attrition, similar to the second base job. We should make this clear. Dyson cannot hit.
But neither can Orlando, who OBP’d to the pace of a .269 clip in 2015.
They both have their strengths, and we’ll get into Orlando’s tomorrow. Both guy’s strengths are similar, though, being defensively.
This raises an interesting predicament for Yost headed into the season. Yes, the Kansas City Royals obviously value defense and have arguably the deepest lineup in the junior circuit. But putting up with an offensive black hole at shortstop is one thing. Doing that in right field is a whole different ball game and neither Dyson or Orlando is going to give the Royals offense.
Alas, we’re right back where we started. Dyson cannot hit. But he can play some ravishing defense, and as a fan of outrageous stats, I would love to see how the Royals outfield would line up historically, given a full season of Gordon/Cain/Dyson in the grass.
Over the last three seasons, Dyson has averaged 11.2 defensive fWAR per season despite averaging just 607 innings per season over those three campaigns. To put that in context, the top qualified^ outfielder by fWAR over the past three seasons has been Leonys Martin at 35.1, for an average of 11.7 per season. During that time, he averaged 965 innings per season.
^I emphasize qualified because Lorenzo Cain tops him with a 41.8 defensive fWAR, but didn’t qualify, with nearly 1,000 fewer innings. The Royals outfield is stupid good.
Dyson has statistically been the best outfielder for the Royals over the past three seasons if you factor in volume, and he shares the outfield with Alex Gordon and Cain. So he’s really, really good.
His metrics took a bit of a hit in 2015, but that can be attributed to him playing significant innings in left field for the first time in his career (even though that did result in this play) and playing over 400 fewer innings in center field than in 2014.
Despite that, he was still seventh best in the AL with 11 DRS.
Ultimately, Dyson’s value and ability to stay in the lineup rests on his speed and defense. What we didn’t mention in the above section was that he still stole 26 bases, despite reaching first or second base just 60 times last season.
His BsR (Base Running Runs above average, for future reference, because I’m tired of spelling out that mouthful) remained steady at 6.3, staying on pace with his 6.1 average.
With the Royals lineup depth, they can afford to lose some offensive value in exchange for defense, especially if that defense is as elite as Dyson’s. In fact, that fits right in to the Royals game plan. If Yost was willing to lose that offense in 2014, when the Royals averaged a 96 wRC+ from their regulars, they’ll certainly be willing in 2016, coming off a season where that average was 100, including Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar combined dreadful 111 mark.
The Royals enter the season with five of nine regulars coming off seasons of 120+ wRC+ campaigns, with defensive anchors like Escobar and Salvador Perez notching seasons below 100, Alex Rios’ 72 being a free agent, and Infante’s ability to be worse than a 44 being virtually impossible.
The Royals can afford to lose some offense in right field in 2016 if they were able to in 2014. And Dyson does provide offensive value. It’s easy to forget that Dyson posted positive offensive fWAR’s in two of his past three seasons. Despite his complete absence of power, he has provided value with an average ability to walk and get on base, above average contact ability, and elite speed.
He provides offensive value, just not in your normal way.
If they Royals allow him to platoon with Orlando and avoid left-handers (career 93 wRC+ vs. righties; 50 wRC+ v. lefties), he can be tolerable enough at the plate not to negate his speed and defense, while getting enough volume to really make some noise on the base paths and on the defensive metric leader board.
Coming into 2016, Dyson is one of the longest tenured Royals on roster. He has played major roles in the Royals two pennant runs, including stealing a base that without, would have made reaching the World Series in 2014 impossible. He also scored a pretty big run in the 2015 World Series, after stealing second base to get into scoring position.
On top of his postseason accomplishments, he is just a season removed from a 3-fWAR season.
He’s waited as long as anybody for a chance at a starting gig, and if he gets it, might just shock a few people and become a valuable starting outfielder.