October 30, 2013

Offseason Outlook: Brian Dozier

brian dozier twins

Over-hyped as a prospect locally after putting up good numbers at Single-A and Double-A in 2011 as a 24-year-old, Brian Dozier reached the majors in early 2012 and flopped both offensively and defensively. He hit just .234/.271/.332 in 84 games with an ugly 58-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio, showing none of the strong strike-zone control he displayed in the minors, and possessed neither the range nor arm strength required to be a big-league shortstop.

Dozier was so bad that the Twins demoted him back to Triple-A in mid-August and then opted not to recall him from Rochester when rosters expanded on September 1, putting his future in doubt. Still in the Twins' plans in part because they lacked other infield options, he shifted from shortstop to second base this season and was handed the Opening Day job, but hit just .214/.259/.299 with a similarly ugly 35-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 games through the end of May.

And then something clicked. Dozier got hot in early June and spent the rest of the season looking nothing like his former self, hitting .255/.331/.458 with 16 homers, 30 doubles, and 42 walks in 106 games over the final four months. During that four-month stretch he had a .789 OPS, which would have ranked sixth among all MLB second basemen overall this season. Or, to put Dozier's improvement another way, look at how his first 125 games compare to his last 106 games:

DOZIER         PA     AVG     OBP     SLG     HR    XBH    BB    SO
First 125     508    .228    .267    .321      8     25    25    93
Last 106      455    .255    .333    .458     16     48    42    85

Dozier more than doubled his Isolated Power from .093 to .203 and nearly doubled his walk rate from 4.9 to 9.2 percent. He continued to strike out a lot and posted a poor batting average, but the gains in power and plate discipline were very encouraging. For the season as a whole he hit .244/.312/.414, which was exactly average for an MLB hitter. That may not seem like a big deal, but no Twins second baseman has been an average or better hitter since Todd Walker in 1998.

Whereas it took two months to get going offensively, Dozier looked like a natural at second base right away. Highlight plays and the huge improvement compared to his time at shortstop may have led to fans and media members slightly overstating how good Dozier was defensively, but the eyes and the numbers definitely agree that he was solid. Ultimate Zone Rating viewed him as an average second baseman and Defensive Runs Saved pegged him nine runs above average.

Dozier hitting a grand total of 16 homers in 1,613 plate appearances as a minor leaguer makes me skeptical that he can maintain the type of power he showed during the final four months, but middle infielders don't need to be 20-homer threats to be assets offensively. MLB second basemen combined to hit .260/.320/.385 over the past two years, which is certainly within reach for Dozier even if he comes back to earth a bit. Add in good defense and that's a nice all-around player.

Given his track record, age, and skill set there probably isn't a ton of upside left in Dozier, but he was the Twins' second-best position player in 2013 and obviously has the starting job locked up for 2014. He could face competition soon from prospect Eddie Rosario, but for now it's not really an issue because Rosario just turned 22 years old, has played only a half-season above Single-A, and may not even wind up sticking at second base defensively. Still, next year is big for Dozier.

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  1. I have to admit that I was pleasantly
    surprised by Dozier this season. I feel like there was a ton of hyperbole being
    used by the FSN talking heads when they spoke of him – to the point of
    over-hyping him – but he was definitely one of the few bright spots in this
    dismal season.

    Comment by D-Luxxx — October 30, 2013 @ 8:00 am

  2. A few of the offseason Twins blueprints I’ve seen accept the notion of Dozier being a long term solution at second base almost a given, which leads to the reasoning behind trading Rosario for pitching. While his results and peripherals are encouraging, I’m not sold on Dozier being a long term solution. He was barely registered as a prospect a year ago and there’s always the possibility of regression; heck! on this team even without regression we are one Dozier minor hamstring pull away from having an all replacement-level infield for three months.
    We talk about the need for young pitching but we also forget that its been hard to find and develop decent infielders too.

    Comment by Steve Johnson — October 30, 2013 @ 9:24 am

  3. Steve, I couldn’t agree with you more on Dozier. He had a nice little year. It will be just like the twins to over value him after one year. If there was any value with him, I would package him and a prospect for pitching. The Twins won’t do this, and instead will probably deal Rosario, who has a way larger upside, if they deal some positional prospects.

    Comment by rghrbek — October 30, 2013 @ 11:07 am

  4. I don’t know about Dozier’s prospects for the future. If he keeps hitting this well Gardy will be forced to bench him for a scrappier middle infielder.

    Comment by joeyk22 — October 30, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  5. Agreed. And of course his sCrappy replacement will bat 2nd.

    Comment by Tom — October 30, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  6. Dozier is a decent number 8 guy in the lineup.

    Comment by chris — October 30, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  7. Dozier’s improvement was not a fluke. He made a mechanical change to his swing May 28 (regarding his front foot) and hit well the rest of the season.

    Comment by Itch — October 30, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

  8. Let’s take a vote:
    Whereas, Dozier had a pretty good year, and
    Whereas, the Twins have no other immediate options,
    Therefore be it resolved that Brian Dozier is the Twins second basemen for 2014.
    All in favor say “aye.”
    (We need more “whereas’s” in sports writing).

    Comment by funoka — October 30, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

  9. Why Are You “Settling” On Dozier??? I Think He Is Perfect For This Team…

    Comment by acasinofriend — October 30, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

  10. Why did your 700 lb. wife settle for you?

    Comment by GrizzledPete — February 16, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

  11. I am all for trading Dozier while his value is relatively high

    Comment by FlsPrpht — October 30, 2013 @ 10:53 pm

  12. You neglected to mention he led the team in OPRLP (Opposing Players Ridden Like Ponies)

    Comment by TheRealCitizenSnips — October 31, 2013 @ 12:24 am

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