With the recent announcement of Yost's semi-tentative "don't hold me to this" remark of having a four-man bench, the talk has turned to who the possibilities are for those four seats. One of them is completely and utterly locked in, in the malevolent form of Yuniesky Betancourt. One of those tickets for an all-expenses-paid summer of pine-riding is almost assuredly bought and paid for for Mr. Brayan Pena. The other two spots would seem to come down to three or four different players: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chris Getz, Jarrod Dyson, and the incumbent Mitch Maier.
Although I wouldn't prefer it, I don't think Ned Yost can resist not having one of either KevKou or Getz sitting a mere thirty or forty feet away from him at all times, ready to do...whatever it is they do...on the baseball diamond.
Which invariably leaves us with the 25th spot, and the right to send letters home from Summer Camp, between one Mitchell William Maier and one Jarrod Martel Dyson.
Based on some of the banter that I have seen, read, and taken part in, it would seem that most people lean towards MITCH as being the fourth outfielder. He has performed admirably if not spectacularly, over his last three seasons as a Royals' player. Across 931 PAs from 2009-2011, his hitting line is .251/.335/.352. His ZiPS projection for next year is .246/.324/.353. The quantifiable matter known as Maier is pretty assured at this point: he'll hit about .250, walk some, hit a couple extra base hits, and play an averageish defense around the outfield. He's a safe call as a fourth bench player and as a fourth outfielder; and there's not much to refute that.
There is no more or even less evidence to say that Jarrod Dyson would be a more adequate player coming off the bench than Maier has been. His ZiPS projection is a paltry .237/.290/.302 (Curiously, ZiPS has Dyson at 429 PAs while Maier is projected to get 310, both of which would require an extended trip to the DL for one or more starters), which is, suffice to say, not good. It's not even really adequate. It borders on being unacceptable. To try and prove a point, let's play the match game. Very simple. Sets of numbers in pairs, one of them is Maier's, one is Dyson's.
Professional cumulative stat lines (minors and majors):
Player A: .273/.343/.345
Player B: .251/.341/.414
This one's a little trickier.
Cumulative Career fWAR
Player A: 0.9
Player B: 0.9
Player A: 24.4
Player B: -1.7
Career Stolen Bases:
Player A: 189-for-225, 84%
Player B: 46-for-70, 65.7%
So yeah, Player A is Jarrod Dyson. Over his limited playing time in the major leagues, Dyson has accumulated as much fWAR (in roughly 1/10th of the PAs) over his sparse and varied 44 professional games as Maier has over his 328. People will tell you that Maier is a better hitter than Dyson, and they are correct, despite the numbers above. Dyson walks at about the same rate as Maier does, but he also strikes out a bit more. Mitch is definitely a better hitter; his career line is depressed because he has spent three years in the majors. Dyson has 118 total plate appearances. MITCH is a major league regular, and should be considered as such, because he has managed to produce somewhat at the major league level (although Dyson has never really had the opportunity to). Cumulatively for their career, Maier is a better hitter.
The thing is, Dyson is better at everything else.
When you consider the facets of the major league game, the ability to put the ball in play is one of the most rhetorically apparent precepts to being a successful player. But it is far from being the only one. Defense and baserunning are the other two major categories of baseball skill, and Jarrod Dyson's lead in both is much longer. There really is no argument to be made about any of these three things.
So what it really comes down to is a question of archetypes; Do you want the middling, maybe-not-quite-but-not-much-better-than-replacement-level player who will hit .250, get on base a little and struggle on defense (but not blatantly so) who will otherwise not hurt the team? Or do you want a guy who's hitting skills are inadequate, but can burn around the bases and play superb defense?