Against all odds: Dyson blazing remarkable path
Royals OF seventh 50th-rounder to appear in a MLB game, and he's doing it every day
KANSAS CITY -- One-point-two percent.
This minuscule figure will forever be tethered to Jarrod Dyson.
It is a percentage that the Kansas City Royals outfielder will not escape for as long as the game that he fell in love with in high school allows him to play.
The 1.2 percent represents the number of 50th-round picks who have reached the Major Leagues since the inaugural Draft in 1965. Not the percentage of former 50th-round picks who have turned into successful Major League players -- Dyson would fall under that category -- but simply players who have stepped onto the field for one appearance, or into the batter's box for one at-bat.
Dyson belongs to the 1.2 percent.
When Dyson debuted for the Royals in 2010, he became the sixth 50th-round pick in history to reach the Majors. To that point, a total of 431 50th-rounders had been taken in the history of the Draft, with 426 of them falling short of the big leagues.
"That pushes me every day, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about where I came from and to where I'm at now," said Dyson, who was drafted in the 50th round by the Royals in 2006.
Beating the odds
|Marvin Benard||San Francisco Giants||OF||1992||8.6|
|Jarrod Dyson||Kansas City Royals||OF||2006||7.0|
|Brian Bowles||Toronto Blue Jays||RP||1994||0.4|
|Anthony Chavez||Anaheim Angels||RP||1992||0.4|
|Efren Navarro||Los Angeles Angels||OF/1B||2007||0.4|
|Tom Robson||Texas Rangers||1B||1967||-0.3|
|Edwards Guzman||San Francisco Giants||C/3B||1995||-2.1|
But Dyson's heart-warming story goes beyond a kid's treacherous, uphill climb to finally get his one day on the big stage.
Yes, he overcame living in the McComb, Miss., projects for the first eight years of his life. Yes, he attended Southwest Mississippi Community College, a school that churned out a grand total of two professional ballplayers before Dyson. And finally, yes, on Sept. 7, 2010, Dyson made his MLB debut after playing five seasons in the Minor Leagues.
But that day was only the start of Dyson's story, as he went from being a speed demon with unrefined hitting and defensive tools in 2010, to a .298 batter and an everyday defensive whiz in the Kansas City outfield.
Here is some statistical context to illustrate the odds Dyson has overcome to reach the big leagues and some examples of the impressive company in which he's placed himself:
• There have been 596 50th-round picks in the history of the MLB Draft. Only seven, including Dyson, ever appeared in an MLB game.
• Dyson's 7.0 career WAR ranks him second to Marvin Benard for 50th-round picks. The other five 50th-rounders combined for -1.3 career WAR.
• With Baseball-Reference.com citing Dyson as being worth 2.5 wins this season, the speedy center fielder is on pace to have the best season in the history of 50th-round picks.
• When the Royals drafted Dyson in 2006, he received a $5,000 signing bonus. The Royals' No. 1 overall pick that season, Luke Hochevar, earned a $3.5 million bonus.
• In 2012, Dyson became the first 50th-round pick since Benard to make an Opening Day roster. This year, he became the first 50th-round pick to play in four Major League seasons since Benard.
• Dyson is the only Royals 50th-round pick to appear in a Major League game.
• Of the Royals' 24 other 50th-rounders, only 11 played any level of professional baseball. Former Royals farmhands Mike Larkin (1973) and Jefferson Infante (2004) each reached Double-A at points in their career. None ever reached Triple-A.
Dyson easily could have been a Larkin or Infante, an underdog who received his taste of professional baseball only to wither under pressure, expectations or the unappealing living conditions intrinsic to the Minors.
"There are plenty of days you go back and lay in your bed and think about how everything you worked for is kind of coming together," Dyson said. "I sit back and think about my days in the Minor Leagues all the time. All the time. And I thought about the moments where I wanted to give up, and I think about how glad I am that I didn't give up."
The transformation for Dyson is complete. He could retire today and still be the second-best 50th-round pick in the history of baseball.
A more likely outcome, based on his breakout campaign this year, would be a seven-figure payday next season followed by the eventual overtaking of Benard as baseball's most successful 50th-rounder -- an honor he'd likely hold onto for the rest of his life given that MLB siphoned off rounds 41-50 in 2012.
"It's something special to be a part of, and it pushes me every day, it drives me every day," Dyson said. "If I'm tired and don't want to do anything, I sit back and think about what I would be doing if I didn't play baseball, and it just pushes me a little harder."
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.