Grant Dayton was seen by some as a potentially savvy under the radar move when the Braves claimed him off of waivers from the Dodgers back in November 2017. While he had some injury red flags from his time in LA involving his neck, the move didn’t cost the Braves anything and his 2016 season had a lot of encouraging peripherals. Two seasons and 12 innings pitched later, Dayton has been more of an afterthought than anything else.
What went right in 2019?
Well the good news here is that Dayton actually pitched for the Braves which was a marked improvement over his 2018 season. While his numbers were iffy in an admittedly very small sample, the fact that the Braves were willing to put him on the active roster four different times during the 2019 season does mean SOMETHING. In his 12 innings pitched in 2019 for the Braves, he also struck out 14 batters which is definitely a positive.
The bulk of his good work this season was done in the minor leagues where he struck out 41 batters in 26.2 innings of work against just four walks. That is not dissimilar from his work during his aforementioned strong 2016 campaign, so there was/is some cause for optimism there.
What went wrong in 2019?
In short, basically everything else. Dayton had all of the opportunities in the world to make it in the Braves bullpen, especially when Atlanta’s relief corps were terrible and/or beset by injuries. However, his own injury issues kept him from making much of an impact. After a short stint on the injured list in April during his time in Gwinnett, the bigger blow came in mid-July when he broke his toe playing catch. No....that is sadly not a typo. A game of catch before a game with Chad Sobotka resulted in his fracturing his big toe. It is probably best not to think about that too much. Dayton would then get transferred to the 60 day injured list in August during all of the Braves’ roster machinations due to the same injury and would not get activated until mid-September.
Also, in his short stint with the Braves this season...he wasn’t that awesome. The strikeout numbers were fine, but his ability to not have many baserunners did not follow him from Gwinnett as he walked guys as a higher rate and opposing batters hit nearly 50 points better against him in the majors than in Triple-A and WELL more than that when compared to his previous stints in the majors.
What to expect in 2020?
This depends entirely on health because while Dayton has not shown any ability to stay on the field the last few seasons, there is little cost to keeping him around. He is entering his first year of arbitration and given his performance and injuries, his arbitration number isn’t one that is going to break the bank if the Braves keep him on the roster.
However, if the Braves plan to make a lot of moves in the bullpen to shore that up, then Dayton’s spot in the bullpen is far from safe even if they exercise his option. While there is little risk in keeping him around to see if he can stay healthy and regain his stuff, that also means there is little to no cost to moving on if it doesn’t work out or if the Braves have someone better for that spot.
In short, there are several Braves relievers whose spot on the Braves’ roster is tenuous at best and Dayton is in that group. The gut feeling here is that he will at least be in camp with the Braves for 2020 spring training. Whether or not he breaks camp with the team or can even stay healthy is a different matter entirely. 40 man roster spots can’t just be given away on this squad given their aspirations...especially to guys that struggle to stay healthy.