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Diamondbacks sign OF Jarrod Dyson: How he will be able to contribute to the Diamondbacks

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His biggest asset is his speed, which makes him an elite baserunner and defender in the outfield.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Media Day
Dyson will be tasked with vacuuming up all the fly balls at Chase Field.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The two biggest news involving J.D. include J.D. Martinez signing a 5-year deal with the Red Sox and the more important news of the Diamondbacks signing Jarrod Dyson. The first thing I want to point out is that Dyson is not a J.D. Martinez replacement and it would be unfair to even think that. What Dyson’s skill set does offer is one that fits very well with what the Diamondbacks should have targeted in terms of outfield help. Last week, when asked the question about which outfielders would make good fallback options this was my answer:

The Diamondbacks certainly agree with that assessment with the team signing him to a two-year, $7.5M contract plus incentives with his guaranteed salaries split evenly in both years. The first thought that comes to mind is there will be a platoon with him given his 55 career wRC+ against LHPs. There will be a need for a right-handed hitting outfielder to spell him, whether it’s Yasmany Tomas or Christian Walker.

Dyson’s skill set relates to his speed. Statcast measured his average sprint speed at 28.8 ft/s, which is faster than any player on the Diamondbacks’ 40-man roster. That speed has translated into a lot of value defensively and on the basepaths. Since becoming a part time regular in the 2012 season, Dyson has been worth 26 and 70 runs above average in terms of baserunning and with his defense. That more than offsets his below average bat, which over that same time frame was 36 runs below average. Over his career, he’s been mostly in center field, although he’s seen time in the corners with 726 of his 4388 defensive innings played in either LF or RF. In Arizona, he figures to be playing a corner spot if A.J. Pollock is healthy but he also gives the team insurance in CF for the next two seasons if Pollock isn’t able to contribute for the Diamondbacks.

There isn’t a lot of projection with the bat as a platoon only player who has a career 93 wRC+ against RHP. His wRC+ totals from 2012 with this split is 90, 105, 87, 94, 86, and 100. So the likely range of outcomes in terms of his production against RHP is somewhere around 90-95 wRC+, which given his glove and baserunning value and how often he gets the platoon advantage can add up to well over 2.0 WAR. Replacing Tomas with Dyson in the outfield could be a 3-win per year upgrade for the team, especially when considering they’re only paying $3.75M per year in guarantees.

So what’s the realistic defensive contribution assuming that Pollock is able to stay healthy enough to play 140 games in a season? Over his 726 innings at the corner outfield spots, Dyson has combined for +20 defensive runs saved and UZR/150 totals of 28.2 and 26.4. The biggest driver for those excellent defensive scores is his arm, which grades extremely well in a small sample. DRS rates his arm at +9 runs and UZR +11 runs. Contrast that with the Diamondbacks outfielders from 2017, with David Peralta’s -3/-0.7, Pollock’s -1/-1.5, Tomas’ -3/-1.1, and Martinez’s -4/-7.7. Martinez is now in Boston, so that should relegate Tomas to a 4th outfielder role unless Walker beats him out in camp.

The best defensive lineup possible would be Peralta in LF, Pollock in CF, and Dyson in RF. I’m not so sure it plays out that way, because the team may want to keep Peralta at one position if Dyson’s outfield spot is getting platooned like many expect. Peralta’s arm graded out poorly in RF, but graded out OK in LF. I have zero expectations with Walker in the outfield and Tomas is not capable of handling RF in any scenario, so for the betterment of the team Peralta will have to rotate between both spots a lot unless the plan is to play Owings in RF against lefties instead or sign a right-handed hitting outfielder for that role.

With the humidor being a full go in 2018, that should suppress home run totals, making a defensive wizard like Dyson even more valuable with the projected increase on balls put into play coming from less batted balls reaching the bleachers and beyond. One of the Diamondbacks’ goal this offseason was to improve the outfield defense and Dyson is a big step towards that.