I was never a big Jarrod Dyson fan when he played in the minors. This doesn't make a lot of sense, since I loved Joey Gathright when I was young, but very little about being a fan makes sense when you sit down and try to think logically about it. I didn't think Dyson would be able to hit enough at the major league level, but the Royals would continue to keep him around for his speed. Since I also think speed is a tool that is normally overrated, I would have to hear about how much his speed is effecting the game in ways that "don't show up in the boxscore," which would only annoy me further.
Dyson played a little in 2010 and 2011, but the injury to Lorenzo Cain early in the season gave him the chance to prove that he belonged on a major league roster. The early return was frustrating, with Dyson providing lno value with the bat as well as a couple of terrible fielding errors. His bat was what I expected, and his defense seemed incredibly overrated; not just because of the errors, but his reads to balls looked terrible as well. Many Royals fans, including myself, were ready to send Dyson back down to AAA and just use MITCH as the centerfielder until Cain healed.
Fortunately, the Royals continued to play Dyson, and he rewarded their patience with some quality play. While I don't think Dyson will ever be anything special, he is proving that he can provide value to a major league roster. Although speed is his strongest tool, he is proving that he is an intelligent baseball player as well, and gets the most out of his skill set.
Dyson has been a monster on the basepaths this season, and despite what you may have heard, these things do show up in the boxscore. Fangraphs has Dyson at 3.8 baserunning runs above average this season, which is easily the best on the Royals. It's also good enough to tie him for the eighth best baserunner in baseball this season, despite not having enough at-bats to qualify for the leaderboard. Baserunning runs is a cumulative statistic, not a rate statistic, making it even more impressive his has been able to be so productive on the basepaths with about 250 less plate appearances than the other league leaders.
Dyson's raw speed greatly helps his baserunning ability, as anyone who watched last night's game can attest. Dyson scored from first base on a single. Dyson was stealing second on the play, but managed to make it around the bases so quickly that there was no play at the plate. But the self-proclaimed Mr. Zoombiya is also an intelligent baserunner, knowing when to steal. He has been successful stealing 25 of 29 times this season, good for an 86% clip, which is well above the necessary 75% success rate.
The outfielder's baseball intelligence is also evident when you look at his hitting peripherals. Dyson's complete lack of power is frustrating and will probably keep him from being another better than average, but he makes the most of what he has. He tries to hit the ball on the ground and use his speed to reach base. His approach has been about as successful as one could have hoped for, with a wRC+ of 94. Dyson helps his cause by being patient at the plate, a novel concept lost on most Royals. Incredibly, Dyson has the third highest BB% on the team at 8.6% and is only one of four Royals currently on the 25-man roster to have a walk rate above league average. He also makes solid contact, posting a below-average strikeout rate that gives him a chance to pick up a decent amount of cheap hits.
Finally, Dyson's fielding has also improved as the season has progressed. Fangraphs has his UZR at 1.0 and BIS has him at 2 runs above average. Although one would like someone with Dyson's speed to be a great fielder, he has played above-average defense at a difficult defensive, which has value. The scouting reports on Dyson generally agreed that he was a good fielder, so there is a possibility his defensive statistics improve as the sample size increases.
Overall, Dyson has been worth 1.5 fWAR in a little over half a season's worth of playing time. While that isn't earth shattering, it's a pretty good number for a backup/platoon outfielder. Jarrod filled in well for Cain while he was hurt; given a full season of playing time, it's not unreasonable to think he could be an average outfielder. The more I think about it, however, I think a platoon of Dyson and Cain in the outfield next season would be the Royals best chance at maximizing both of their value next season. Either way, Dyson is showing that he can provide value for the Royals now and in the future.