August 15, 2012

Twins demote Dozier to Triple-A after three months as starting shortstop

From the moment Ron Gardenhire repeatedly singled him out by name as a desired call-up last season Brian Dozier's hype has surpassed his actual upside. He went from non-prospect to Twins minor league player of the year by hitting .320 last season between high Single-A and Double-A, at which point fans started getting their hopes up and prominent local media members fanned the flames by calling him "The Next Big Thing." Literally.

Lost in the hype and optimism was that Dozier's lofty batting average came as a 24-year-old who began last season repeating high Single-A, included modest power, was vastly better than his very underwhelming previous production, and went alongside widely held questions about his defense at shortstop. In reality Dozier was nowhere near being thought of as a top prospect. In fact, he wasn't even considered a top prospect within the Twins organization.

Coming into the season ESPN.com, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball America rated him 7th, 9th, and 10th among Twins prospects and Dozier placed 10th in my annual ranking of the team's farm system. Anyone expecting Dozier to be more than a decent regular for the Twins, let alone a star, was engaging in some serious wishful thinking and unfortunately even "decent regular" proved too optimistic for his first taste of the big leagues.

Dozier has been awful as a 25-year-old rookie, hitting .234/.271/.332 with error-filled defense in 84 games, including an ugly 58-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio that showed an overmatched hitter rather then someone with a track record of good strike-zone control. And late last night the Twins decided they'd seen enough, demoting Dozier back to Triple-A and calling up Pedro Florimon, a 24-year-old offseason waiver claim who hit just .251/.308/.345 in Rochester.

Dozier's performance was certainly bad enough to warrant a trip back to the minors, but the timing of the move seems odd. Why call him up after just 28 games in Rochester despite a modest .276/.339/.371 line there and then play him every day from May through mid-August only to send him down with just two weeks left in the Triple-A season? It's not as if the Twins are fighting for a playoff spot and it's not as if Florimon is more than a potential utility man.

Perhaps the Twins legitimately believe that a dozen games at Triple-A can jump-start Dozier before an inevitable September call-up and after the recent Rochester breakouts from Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee nothing seems out of the question. However, he'll be 26 years old next season and except for a 2011 performance that was over-hyped to begin with there's nothing in Dozier's track record to suggest he has considerable upside.

Giving him an extra couple weeks at Triple-A before being called up may have come in handy, but three months and 340 plate appearances in the majors later does a two-week demotion before a return to Minnesota in September seem likely to accomplish much of anything? I'd love to be wrong, just as I'd love to be wrong about Dozier's upside in general, but right now the Twins are back in their all-too-familiar place of searching for answers in the middle infield.

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  • Large Canine

    “searching for answers in the middle infield” -Twins wouldn’t know an answer if they saw one, ie J.J. Hardy

  • http://www.mog.com/funoka funoka

    Sort of a weird move, but I wonder if the thinking is that getting better defense is a way to take a bit of pressure of the pitching staff.

  • Justin

    I’ve been to about 20 Red Wings games this year and Florimon has been by far the most exciting player on the team, in my opinion. He doesn’t hit much, but makes a great defensive play nearly every game. He has a strong arm and doesn’t make many mistakes. I think the Twins might be pleasantly surprised by him.

  • Todd L

    Dozier, we hardly knew ye. Oh well, sounds like Florimon for Dozier will be basically a wash. Rearranging some refuse couldn’t hurt I guess. Maybe it will stink less at Garbage Burner Field after this.

  • Yoshi

    As you mentioned, Dozier’s 58-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio shows that he’s been pretty overmatched this year, compared to his minor league track record where he was very consistent with good plate discipline. Since it’s clear that he hasn’t been able to adjust to the majors yet, what’s the big deal with sending him down where he can clear his head and work on some adjustments?

  • David

    Parmelee for Twins’ starting shortstop.

  • Dave T

    +1 to Large Canine’s post. Another example would be Jason Bartlett (Tampa’s MVP the year after the trade).

  • Pedro Munoz

    Keep in mind that both Hardy and Bartlett had great years right after they left the Twins, but neither kept it up. Getting rid of those guys was a mistake in each case, but not as big a mistake as it initially appeared.

    Bartlett put up a 5.5 WAR his first year with the Rays in 2009 after a 1.9 with the Twins in 2008, but followed that up with 1.2 in 2010, 1.8 in 2011 and -0.4 this year, most of which has been spent on the DL.

    Hardy had a 2.5 WAR with the Twins in 2010, a 4.8 with the Orioles in 2011, and just a 1.1 this year. His 2012 OBP (.270) is actually worse than Dozier’s, although Dozier comes in exactly at replacement value (0.0 WAR).

    While I was playing around on Fangraphs, I looked up Nishioka, who managed to rack up a -0.4 WAR in just the three games he played. Adding that to the -1.4 he put up last year gives him a career -1.8 WAR.

  • Deduno Abides

    This move doesn’t make sense from an organization standpoint. It will not help the team nor help the player. Dozier is a decent player, at least as good as Casilla. Removing Dozier from the line-up and playing Casilla every day will not improve the team. (Please don’t tell me Casilla has a brighter future with the team than does Dozier.) The best thing for Dozier at this time, like any inexperienced player, would be to allow him to make mistakes without fear of losing his job. Demoting him to Rochester for two weeks will not enable him to “gain confidence,” the usual alibi for this kind of move. Further, despite his alleged deficiencies, the offense and defense have been doing well, and the mood around the team seems pretty good, especially considering their record. Every time a confusing change like this is made, it negatively affects the clubhouse, unless the entire team just wanted the player gone. This kind of yo-yo player development, following last week’s confusing moves with Nishioka, is as much a mark of bad teams as is a low OPS. Good organizations, such as the Minnesota Twins of the early 1980′s with Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti, Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett, ride through the mistakes of inexperienced players, unless they don’t think the player will ever contribute. Once again, management has overhyped an inexperienced player and then scapegoated him when he didn’t perform to inflated expectations.

  • Pedro Munoz

    The difference between the Twins of the early 1980s and Brian Dozier is that the 80s Twins played well when they got called up and Dozier has played like crap. Here are the WAR numbers for the players named above in their first full seasons with the Twins:

    Brunansky 5.8
    Hrbek 3.8
    Puckett 3.7
    Gaetti 1.9
    Viola 1.3

    Those guys stayed in the majors not because of team unity of confidence building, but because when they came to the majors, they played well enough to justify sticking around. Dozier, on the other hand, has a 0.0 WAR. (Casilla is at 0.8 this year, btw) He is as good as a replacement level player. You can criticize the timing, and the move itself given the lack of alternatives, but sending a replacement level player back to the minors shouldn’t get anyone too upset.

  • Mike

    WAR seems to be the measure today I wonder what the WAR of Rivas, Guzman and Koskie was in the 5 years they played together compared to the 2nd, ss and 3b WAR accumulated since that time?

  • Pedro Munoz

    2B

    2000 Rivas-0.1
    2001 -0.6
    2002 0.7
    2003 -0.1
    2004 1.1

    Cristian Guzman

    2000 0.0
    2001 3.9
    2002 1.3
    2003 1.2
    2004 2.0

    Corey Koskie

    2000 2.6
    2001 5.8
    2002 5.1
    2003 5.0
    2004 2.4

  • Pedro Munoz

    Based on the player that played the most innings at each position that year:

    2B

    2000 Rivas -0.1
    2001 Rivas -0.6
    2002 Rivas 0.7
    2003 Rivas -0.1
    2004 Rivas 1.1
    2005 Punto 0.8
    2006 Castillo 2.3
    2007 Castillo 1.4
    2008 Casilla 1.4
    2009 Casilla -1.2
    2010 Hudson 3.5
    2011 Casilla 1.4
    2012 Casilla 0.8

    SS

    2000 Guzman 0.0
    2001 Guzman 3.9
    2002 Guzman 1.3
    2003 Guzman 1.2
    2004 Guzman 2.0
    2005 Bartlett 1.9
    2006 Bartlett 3.2
    2007 Bartlett 3.4
    2008 Punto 2.7
    2009 Cabrera 0.8
    2010 Hardy 2.5
    2011 Nishioka -1.4
    2012 Dozier 0.0

    3B

    2000 Koskie 2.6
    2001 Koskie 5.8
    2002 Koskie 5.1
    2003 Koskie 5.0
    2004 Koskie 2.4
    2005 Cuddyer 1.4
    2006 Punto 3.4
    2007 Punto 0.5
    2008 Harris 1.1
    2009 Crede 1.8
    2010 Valencia 2.7
    2011 Valencia 0.5
    2012 Plouffe 1.3

  • doofus

    maybe they sent him down to see if Brunansky can fix him.

  • (the other) Neil

    Easy guys. First off, what else was management supposed to do last year, if not create hype for Dozier? You’re running a BUSINESS, your product is under-performing, and you have an exciting commodity that could really have an impact. Yeah, it was overdone, but that is part of their job. Second, anyone that’s seen Dozier play knows he should be in AAA right now. Third, how do we know that the players view this as a “confusing” move? Maybe after rehab assignments in Rochester, players have been raving about Florimon and wanted to see him up with the big club (not likely, doesn’t matter). Let’s not over-analyze, or waste much time speculating on, a move that sent a AAA player to AAA.

  • Sinking Liner

    “I’d have sent me down, because I haven’t been playing the way I know how to play and that I’m capable of doing.”
    ~Brian Dozier

  • Dustin

    The other big problem with getting rid of Hardy is that he’s a PERFECT fit for this club. A well above average defensive SS with power. On a team that will trot out Span and Revere on a regular basis due to the defense and Target Field’s dimensions, it’s nice to complement those guys with power from the MI. Hardy was a perfect fit.

    Dozier’s just not that good, and likely never will be. I agree with every word, Gleeman, and have thought the same things (Twins’ hype) for over a year now.

  • Scott

    Am I the only one that remembers Hardy taking off half the summer with a bruised hand? I supported getting rid of him. Don’t care what he did later. Man up.

  • Large Canine

    Scott, and bilateral leg weakness is acceptable? Someone should have a cable tv show regarding the Twins medical/training department. It would have to be a comedy.