The Latest Permutation to the 8-man Bullpen: Sam Dyson


After Wednesday night’s victory over the Kansas City Royals, the Blue Jays announced that relief pitcher Scott Richmond was being optioned back down to Triple-A Las Vegas, and that a corresponding move would be made on Thursday. Their plans were derailed slightly by New Hampshire beat reporter Kevin Gray, who caught word that Sam Dyson of the Fisher Cats had received the promotion and would be joining the Blue Jays in Toronto for the series finale on Thursday. After he broke the story on Twitter, the plethora of other Blue Jays reporters had conversations with their various sources within the organization to confirm that Dyson was indeed the guy.

The move was a shock to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there’s a guy in Triple-A named Chad Beck who has done everything the organization has asked of him this year, and has pitched very effectively while doing so. Beck has served as the 51s closer, racking up 9 saves alongside an impressive 1.21 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. The strikeout rate is below average at only 4.55 K/9, but he has made up for it with an above average groundout to flyout ratio of 1.37. Keep in mind, he’s also pitching in the Pacific Coast League -– namely Las Vegas –- where many pitchers see their careers crash and burn. Beck has also pitched in three games for Toronto this year, most notably the June 11th game against Washington in which he stepped into the game after Brandon Morrow managed only nine pitches. He had spent all season making one inning appearances, but with the Blue Jays in serious trouble, he stepped up and gave the team a greatly needed 3.2 innings. Did I mention he had also pitched an inning the night before? As a thank you, the Blue Jays demoted him immediately after the game. They could have righted a wrong last night, but chose not to.

The second and third reasons the promotion of Dyson surprised me are that he’s only in his first professional season, and while he’s reached Double-A, the numbers don’t suggest he’s ready to make the jump to Toronto. Dyson made six starts with High-A Dunedin in April and early May, pitching to a 4.08 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He then received a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire, where he’s pitched exclusively as a reliever. In 15 appearances, he has a much better 0.75 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, but his strikeout rate has actually worsened, dropping from 5.02 to 3.00 K/9. He slightly makes up for the lack of strikeouts with good control (2.22 BB/9) and a crazy strong groundball rate (3.34 GO/AO), but while both of those traits are excellent to have, teams typically want strikeout pitchers in the bullpen in order to minimize the advancement of inherited base runners.

Dyson relies heavily upon his fastball, which he throws in the low to mid 90’s, with some reports suggesting he’s touched as high as 98 mph this year. I’m certainly skeptical of such readings, and with Dyson, movement is just as, if not more important than shear velocity, as fastballs tend to flatten out when thrown that hard. When pitching effectively, he buries the sinker down in the zone, which is the main reason for the exceptional groundball rate I mentioned above. Opposing hitters have a horrible time trying to generate loft on the pitch, resulting in only one home run allowed in over 52 innings this season. Dyson throws a changeup and a pair of breaking balls in his curveball and slider, but all are well behind his fastball in terms of both development and usage. Now that he’s working exclusively in a relief setting, he’s likely to cut down the repertoire from four pitches to two or three, with the slider the most likely to go. Durability is Dyson’s biggest weakness, as both his college and professional careers have been littered with shoulder and elbow injuries, which likely necessitated the move to the bullpen.

The team, namely John Farrell, mentioned the Blue Jays were hoping to call up a player who could stabilize the seventh inning ahead of Oliver and Janssen, but I honestly don’t see how Dyson is a better option than Jason Frasor or Luis Perez at this point. His complete lack of the ability to strike batters out is a huge detriment regardless of how many groundballs he generates, because as I mentioned, many late game scenarios are much cleaner when strikeouts are involved. With that being said, the Blue Jays have shown to have one of the best infield defenses in baseball, so perhaps the team can catch lightning in a bottle with the sinkerballer Sam Dyson. Given the performance of the bullpen this year, they could sure use it.