When we, the writers of RotoGraphs, were presenting our 10 Bold Predictions, number six on my list was that Jarrod Dyson would lead the American League in stolen bases. I was basing it on his 30 steals in a part-time role last year, that he was opening this season in the bigs as the Royals’ fourth outfielder and that between Lorenzo Cain’s propensity for injury and Jeff Francoeur’s inability to hit, he would see plenty of time in a starting role. Well right now, he’s got six steals which is half of what the current AL leader has, and while Cain has remained surprisingly healthy so far, Francoeur is certainly doing his part to help my cause. If he’s sitting there on your waiver wire, it’s time to pick up Dyson.
My prediction wasn’t looking too good when the season first opened, as Dyson’s opportunities were more than just a bit limited. Out of a possible 24 games (25 really, but one was postponed and not made up immediately) in April, Dyson started just four and found his way into just seven others. While he managed to steal five bases out of six attempts, he certainly wasn’t going to lead the league at this rate. Not only was he going to need to play more, but he he was going to need a perpetual green light on the base paths to make it happen.
But as the calendar flipped to May and the Royals endured a quick three-game losing streak in which they plated just seven runs and the offense was scuffling, manager Ned Yost decided to shake some things up and suddenly Dyson was seeing more action. Prior to Tuesday’s game, Dyson started four of the Royals last six games and hit safely in three of them, giving him a .270 average on the season and the Royals a strong speed presence atop the lineup. It wasn’t exactly lightning in a bottle, but it was certainly a start.
Moving forward though, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of Dyson in the starting lineup. Defensively he is sound as his speed allows him to cover a tremendous amount of ground as the team’s center fielder and offensively, he can be a catalyst at the top of the lineup. That moves Cain over to right field and while he may not have as good an arm as Francoeur, keeping Frenchy on the bench is simply addition by subtraction on the offensive front. He [Francoeur] is currently mired in a 4-for-34 (.118) slump here in the month of May and is now batting just .221 on the season. He has just one home run and nine RBI on the year which is actually just two RBI more than what Dyson has for his power totals. Take Dyson’s average and six steals into account and he easily trumps Francoeur’s presence.
Given the lack of production from Francoeur last season and the dismal first month and a half we’ve seen from him this year, it’s just a short matter of time before he is on the bench regularly. Dyson should prove to be a much more productive player for the Royals and as a result, for your fantasy team as well. You’re looking at a decent (not phenomenal) batting average, some quality runs scored, and, if my prediction holds true, a ton of stolen bases.