So here we are. With the Blue Jays’ pitching staff decimated by injury and underperformance and the hitters stubbornly slugging the team to fringe contention, we’re in full-on all-arms-on-deck mode. Enter Sam Dyson. Who? He’s a pitcher the Jays drafted out of college while injured. Who didn’t pitch last year. Who made his professional debut in April. It’s possible that we are nowhere and it is now. Here’s more on Dyson. Let’s hope he doesn’t suck.
In 2006, the Washington Nationals drafted Sam Dyson in the 19th round of the MLB Amateur Draft out of Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida. Dyson chose to honour his commitment to the University of South Carolina instead of signing. In 2009, his sophomore season, he was drafted again – this time by the Oakland Athletics in the 10th round. He was considered a tough sign due to both injury history and signability and, indeed, Dyson turned down the A’s offers and returned to Columbia for his senior season. It didn’t take long for his gamble to look questionable as he promptly blew out his elbow in mid-season. Tantalized by his natural talent, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in the 4th round, 126th overall, fully aware he’d require Tommy John surgery that would cost him the entire 2011 season.
There’s so little pro data to analysis on Dyson that, for now, the best way to get a read on him is to consult reports on him from school.
Back in 2006, he likely would’ve been drafted in the top 5 rounds if not for his strong college commitment. By 2007, he’d been bit by the injury bug – at maximum force. First, Dyson underwent labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder. He also needed surgery on his left shoulder. And, finally, an elbow procedure called ulnar transposition surgery to stop a nerve from rubbing against the bone. His chart now read like a reconstructed doll. Labrum surgery is typically cited as the worst of them. It’s no sure thing. You’ll remember it costing Casey Janssen his entire 2008 season and he also spent much of 2009 struggling to find his former self. Some never do. The surgeries and rehab would cost Dyson, then 19, all of 2007.
By 2008, he was pitching again and showing good arm strength. But his raw stuff wasn’t producing results. He could touch 96-97 MPH on the gun. But his heat lacked movement. And genuine durability concerns were now a part of his scouting report.
Entering 2009, he was seen as one of the hardest throwers in the draft. But Dyson was incredible raw – a classic thrower rather than a thrower and, fair enough, given the time lost to injury. His performance with the Gamecocks didn’t help his case. On one hand, he helped alleviate concerns about his durability by firing 102 innings as a sophomore. But he gave up 18 home runs and looked, frankly, very hittable. Oakland bought a lottery ticket on him but couldn’t get him to sign. Perhaps it was just as well. By August, Dyson had developed bone chips in his right elbow and had to be shut down for the season to remove them.
He began the 2010 season healthy and, perhaps not coincidentally, recorded his best season ever: 14 games, 5-5, 3.92 in 82.2 innings with an 86/17 SO/BB line and just 3 home runs allowed. But he simply couldn’t keep the doctors away, blowing out his elbow mid-season. The Jays selected him anyway, paid for his operation and rushed him into the system before injury could strike again.
He made his professional debut with the high-A Dunedin Blue Jays this year, making 6 starts and going 2-0, 4.08 in 28.2 IP with a 16/5 SO/BB rate. Not bad, particularly for a ‘baseball rookie’ recovering from Tommy John, but not particularly exemplary either. Toronto quickly promoted him to the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats and wasted little time converting him to relief – a move designed to reduce the toll on his fragile arm and push him quickly through the minors. There he pitched in 15 games, going 0-0, 0.75 in 24 IP, allowing 19 hits and working to an 8/8 SO/BB line. He’d recently become the team’s closer and earned 3 saves.
Dyson still possesses a starter’s four-pitch repertoire: a developing slider, fringe curveball and change. But these days it’s his sinker that’s carried him to the majors so quickly. He no longer throws the blazing heat of his college peak (now sitting in the low 90s rather than 95-96) but his ball possesses quality dive. Granted, the sample size is small. But right now he’s profiling as an extreme groundball pitcher, netting 3.5 groundouts/fly out in his brief minor league stint. And there remains hope that his velocity could increase a tick if he stays in a relief role and develops more arm strength as his TJ recovery continues. He’s said to have a quiet personality and has, so far, taken well to the conversion into relief.
He arrives in Toronto on a roll, allowing no runs in his last 10 AA outings covering 17 innings. He is 24 years old.
It certainly appears Sam Dyson has a major league arm. The fear is that it could fall off at any moment. His AA manager, Sal Fasano, says that although Dyson is in his mid-20s, he’s very young to professional baseball. That, plus his lacklustre minor league K-rate, suggests his early outings could be rocky. If he can continue to keep the ball on the ground, he’ll be helped by the Jays’ strong infield defense. But let’s hold off thinking this guy is an option in tight situations. He’s their 18th (!) reliever of the year, after all. Teams simply can’t plan for emergencies like the kind facing Toronto right now.
I think shifting Dyson to the bullpen and fasttracking him through the system was an inspired, if obvious, move. But it’s hard to see a big league promotion this dramatic benefiting his development or plugging the team’s ongoing relief sieve. Then again, maybe this was always the plan for Dyson. Everything in his medical record suggests he’ll always be one pitch away from a career-ending injury. The most likely scenario has him getting shelled and returning to AA so that Chad Beck, Joel Carreno or, for the love of God, Clint Everts get an extended look.
It used to be that anyone selected beyond the draft’s third round and made it to the majors was considered a steal. Dyson was once seen as a first-round talent. So you have to credit the Blue Jays for making a shrewd value pick and sticking to their vision for him. On the merits of getting to Toronto alone he’s proven worth their gamble.
Sam Dyson, RP
05/07/88 Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 205
Tampa, Florida College: South Carolina
Drafted by Toronto in the 4th round, 126th overall, of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.
(Originally drafted by Washington in the 19th round, 571th overall, of the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft bud did not sign; again drafted by Oakland in the 10th round, 303rd overall, in 2009)
Contract Status: Not eligible for arbitration before 2017.
Service Time: 0.0