The Dodgers acquired Grant Dayton in 2015 for former first-round pick Chris Reed. One year later, Dayton had a sublime season in the minors and forced his way into the major league bullpen.
What went right
Dayton began the year in Triple-A Oklahoma City, but after one game was sent to Double-A Tulsa, where he pitched for a month, amassing 11 scoreless appearance in his 12 games with the Drillers.
Between Double-A and Triple-A, Dayton was dominant in the minors, posting a 2.42 ERA in 38 games, with 91 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 52 innings. The 91 strikeouts were the most by any Dodgers minor league relief pitcher in 2016.
Dayton struck out 46% of his batters faced in the minors, and that earned him his major league debut. The left-hander made his major league debut on July 22, then was up to stay in early August.
Dayton excelled in the majors as well, posting a 2.05 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 25 games, with 39 strikeouts against only six walks. Dayton struck out 38.6% of his batters faced in the majors.
That strong performance earned Dayton a spot in the Dodgers’ postseason bullpen.
Adding in his 39 strikeouts in the majors, Dayton’s 130 strikeouts in 2016 ranked seventh in the organization, behind only Kenta Maeda (179), Clayton Kershhaw (172), Brock Stewart (154), Scott Kazmir (134), Tommy Bergjans (133), Chase De Jong (133) annd Andrew Sopko (132). The fewest number of innings among that group was 130, compared to just 78⅓ frames for Dayton.
What went wrong
The home run ball hurt Dayton at times in the majors, allowing four in his 26⅓ innings. Two of those came in a nine-day span against the Phillies, a three-run shot by Freddy Galvis in the seventh inning on Aug. 10, and a two-run homer by Maikel Franco also in the seventh on Aug. 19.
Both home runs turned a Dodgers’ lead into a deficit, and eventually a loss.
Dayton pitched in seven of the Dodgers’ 11 postseason games and struck out a third of his batters faced (6 of 18), but also posted an 8.10 ERA. The bulk of the damage came in Game 5 of the NLDS, when he faced two batters in the seventh inning, allowing a two-run shot to Chris Heisey to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 4-3, necessitating Kenley Jansen entering the game earlier than expected in a 51-pitch effort.
Stats: 2.05 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 39 K, 6 BB in 26⅓ innings; 0.6 rWAR, 0.5 fWAR
Salary: $507,500, pro-rated for Dayton’s time in the majors, roughly $172,000
Game of the year
Dayton’s major league debut on July 22 in St. Louis came in a high-leverage situation, and he pitched two scoreless innings, keeping the game tied in extra innings, pitching the 11th ad 12th. Dayton hit a batter but struck out two.
Dayton has 74 days of major league service time and one option year remaining.