KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The way Royals manager Ned Yost sees it, there is fast and then there is “Dyson fast.”
So while Yost acknowledges there are other players in baseball who have elite speed – Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout of the Angels, Dee Gordon of the Dodgers and Michael Bourn of the Indians, for example – there really isn’t anyone faster than Royals’ outfielder Jarrod Dyson.
“I’d definitely say he’s the fastest,” Yost said. “One of the fastest I’ve ever seen.”
Royals designated hitter Billy Butler agrees.
“Day in and day out, he’s the fastest guy in baseball I would say,” Butler said. “Pretty fearless, too. He’s one of those guys who’s so fast he thinks he can’t ever get caught at stealing, taking the extra base, whatever.”
Dyson himself believes he’s at the top of the speed list, too.
“If not at the top, at least in the top three,” Dyson said.
So who would be faster?
“Well, I don’t know for a fact anyone is faster,” he said. “If there is, I’d like to take him on.”
Dyson doesn’t put that much credence in 40 times, so any competition likely would be best on the diamond.
“I don’t even know what my 40 time would be, maybe 4.3,” he said. “But usually, I just run as fast as the situation calls for.”
For starters, that would be home to first, where the major-league average is 4.3 seconds for right-handers and 4.2 for left-handers.
Dyson, a left-handed hitter, routinely runs it in 3.7.
“I have done a 3.5,” he said. “Like I said, I usually run faster when I have to.”
On straight steals of second, Dyson’s time is somewhere around 2.5 or 2.6, making it almost impossible to throw him out.
And leading off first base is where Dyson is most dangerous. He tends to terrorize opposing pitchers and defenses. He is Yost’s late-inning speed specialist, a wonderful weapon for any manager to have.
“I’m lucky to have that,” Yost said. “He is such a huge weapon, maybe my biggest weapon. He puts such pressure on defenses. It seems that someone like Billy (Butler) always gets on in the eighth or ninth inning, and that allows me to use Jarrod and really change the strategy of the game.”
In a part-time role last year, Dyson swiped 30 bases in 35 attempts. He stoles bases when he was picked off first. He stole bases on pitch-outs. He stole bases after terrible jumps.
There is almost no stopping him.
“I feel like I can outrun most pitch-outs,” he said. “I have gotten steals on pickoffs, but that’s not the way you want to go about it. That’s the area I want to get better, and I have. Most of my caught steals are pickoffs.”
Most Royals fans know Dyson’s story by now. He was taken by the Royals in the 50th round of the 2006 draft, the 1,475th player taken overall. He is listed at 5 feet 9, 160 pounds, and even those listings seem a bit generous when you’re standing next to him.
Dyson was drafted simply on the potential of his legs, and through the years in the minors he has honed his skills in the outfield and at the plate. His best year came in 2011 when he hit .279 at Triple-A Omaha and stole 38 bases in 40 attempts.
“I know what my job is,” he said. “I’m there to try to make it uncomfortable for the other team, especially the other pitcher. I like that.”
The word has been out for over a year about Dyson’s speed. He hears the moans and groans from opposing first basemen each time he enters the game as a pinch-runner.
“Sometimes they just say, ‘Hey, man, take it easy on us,’ ” Dyson said, laughing. “They know I’m going. Everyone knows I’m going.”
And there’s rarely anything opponents can do about it, although Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon tried to block Dyson from the bag, like a catcher, during Monday’s opener. Umpire Brian O’Nora called Dyson out, though replays showed Dyson made it through the blockade and to the base before the tag.
Florimon certainly paid the price.
“I could feel my spikes dig right into his leg,” Dyson said. “I don’t know why he did that. Maybe they scouted me as a head-first guy, but I’ve been mixing it up, going head-first or feet-first.”
Yost didn’t seem too worried that opponents might try to block the bag on Dyson more often in the future.
“Go ahead and try,” Yost said, smiling. “We saw what happened with the Twins.”
Dyson said he will continue to slide feet first when necessary, although he did check on Florimon on Tuesday.
“I just wanted to make sure he was OK,” Dyson said. “I got him pretty good. He said he was fine. He didn’t play the next day but I think he was just supposed to have a day off.”
In reality, perhaps the only way to beat Dyson is to pick him off.
“I guess that’s the best way,” Dyson said. “I feel like I can outrun just about anything else.”