On Monday the Diamondbacks may have been frustrated to see their number one free agent target, J.D. Martinez, sign a five-year $110 million contract with the Red Sox. Albeit, on the surface it appeared the D-backs had a Plan B waiting with realistic expectations that Martinez would not re-sign. It’s been reported though that Arizona had made arrangements to sign outfield depth regardless of Martinez’s decision.
In the age of home runs and strikeouts, an underrated advantage that can greatly influence the outcome of a game is the speed factor. Yesterday, Arizona got a lot speedier. By signing Jarrod Dyson to a two-year $7.5 million deal, the D-backs quickly pounced on the opportunity to add value to their lineup and defense. Dyson can fill in at all three outfield positions and is expected to platoon with defensively-challenged Yasmany Tomás while also giving occasional rest days to Pollock and Peralta.
Dyson is most known for his stolen base in the 9th inning of the 2014 AL Wild Game, followed by his Yung Joc celebration. With his team down by a run and with one out, Dyson stole third base and scored on a sac fly to tie the game. The Royals went on to win the game in extra innings and eventually found themselves in the World Series. Speed propelled the Wild Card underdog to the American League Pennant.
In 2017, before a hernia injury ended his season in September, Dyson set career highs in runs (56), hits (87), home runs (5), and RBI (30). His age 32 season with the Mariners saw him compile a 2.6 WAR in 111 games while slashing .251/.324/.350 and stealing 28 bases. Statistically, he performed better against right-handed pitching, a role he will be called upon to execute for Arizona.
Dyson has never been viewed as an offense-first player. He provides an endangered skillset that has come to be perceived as secondary to the power-heavy, all-or-nothing philosophy of today’s game. The value of defense has always been inferior to the value that a player can provide offensively.
While the D-Backs’ organization is trending towards more analytics-based decision making, this signing is indicative of a step in that direction. Keep in mind that speed and defensive ability are two separate entities, yet there is a positive correlation between the former and the latter. Dyson provides both.
It is true that he is one of the fastest players in the game, but could his greatest tool be in decline? Last year his average sprinting speed was 28.8 feet per second, good for 30th in the majors. While still well above average, this was a sizable drop off from his 4th place ranking in 2016 (29.6 ft./s) and 1st place ranking in 2015 (30 ft./s). Despite his minor drop, there is no doubt he is still a considerable threat on the base paths. His stolen base percentage ranks 3rd among active players and 12th all-time!
Dyson had historically been a reserve player before becoming the starting centerfielder for the Mariners last year. He took full advantage showing off his defensive ability, producing a 1.7 defensive WAR, fourth best among AL centerfielders. With the new addition of a humidor at Chase Field to lessen the impact on batted balls, Dyson’s defense will help to support the pitching staff in its goal of preventing more runs in 2018.
The Diamondbacks see Jarrod Dyson as a solid reserve/platoon player that will start some games but can also come off the bench to provide late-inning defense and speed on the bases as a pinch-runner. He has experience in the postseason and provides complimentary leadership to a reigning wild-card winning team looking to dethrone the reigning National League Champions in the NL West.