What Happened in 2016: Dominated in the minors, was really good in the majors and became the top lefty in the bullpen.
For a guy who was acquired for Chris Reed in 2015, Grant Dayton has turned out to be quite a useful mammal. He opened eyes this season when his strikeout rate jumped from an already great 30 percent in his time with Tulsa and Oklahoma City in 2015 to 45.9 percent with those teams in 2016. He did that while maintaining a sparkling walk rate and didn’t allow many home runs. His 52 innings in the minors this season were flat-out dominant.
Dayton made his MLB debut on July 22, and he pitched two scoreless innings against the Cardinals in an extra-inning loss. He was back in Triple-A four days later before coming back up on Aug. 6 to stick in the bullpen. Dayton was interesting enough that Daniel wrote about him a couple days after that.
“Grant Dayton threw 28 pitches on Saturday. 24 were fastballs, three were curves, and one was a change. The fastball was the star of the show, as the above GIFs show. Long-term it would be good if he mixed his pitches more, but the results of that outing speak for themselves. Dayton’s fastball spin rate isn’t superlative, but against the Red Sox he averaged +11.6 inches of vertical break. Among relievers with at least 100 fastballs thrown, that average would be within the top ten. Dayton’s pitches weren’t moving nearly as much in his outing against the Cardinals, so it’s hard to know which sample to trust going forward. Dayton’s fastball induced eight whiffs among fifteen swings, an elite rate.
Dayton’s pitching style is reminiscent of what Yimi Garcia looked like at the beginning of last season. The results eventually caught up to Garcia, but until his injury he was still a very good reliever. Garcia threw almost exclusively high fastballs, got plenty of whiffs, and topped out between 93 and 94, just like Dayton does now.”
And like Garcia, Dayton was bitten the home-run ball a bit in his first 26 1/3 innings (not to mention Chris Heisey tagging him in the NLDS). That’s something he’ll need to work on going forward, and that is strictly due to his good-not-great command.
He allowed a .188 ISO against his fastball this past season, which isn’t an obscene number, but he didn’t allow an extra-base hit on any non-fastball in 2016. To be fair, he did throw his fastball 77.1 percent, meaning there were more opportunities for it to get hit (and he did have a 19.8 whiff rate on the pitch). If he gets more precise with his fastball command and his offspeed pitches remain solid, he’s going to have a long career.
2017 Status: Firmly entrenched as the No. 1 lefty in the bullpen and, if the season started today, might be the Dodgers’ closer.