There was significant fanfare surrounding Brian Dozier following a successful Spring Training by the then 24 year old Twins shortstop. Dozier hit .277/.333/.511 in 22 games at short stop during Spring Training to lead all shortstops, but without any Triple-A seasoning under his belt, the Twins sent him to Rochester to begin the 2012 campaign. Dozier started out red hot for the Red Wings and raised a lot of eyebrows in the Twins’ front office. After just 28 games Dozier was hitting .276/.339/.371 (about what he was hitting in 2009 and 2010, but his OPS was about 200 points below what he hit in 2011 between A+ and AA) and the Twins called him up the Minneapolis.
In the 55 games before the All-Star Game, Brian Dozier hit .242/.267/.332 with only 8 walks to go along with 41 strike outs. Clearly, with only 28 games at AAA and 55 more with the Twins, Dozier would take a little time to adjust to the talent level of the best baseball players on the planet. In just 28 games since the All-Star break Dozier’s bat has started to come around, his batting average has sagged (.228), but his OBP (.288) and SLG (.347) are both climbing towards acceptable levels for Major League shortstops, even with a BABIP of .244 (league average is around .300). Along with increased on-base and power numbers, Dozier has matched his walk and home run totals from the 1st half, and cut down his strike out rate from 19.43% to 16.83%.
Yesterday afternoon, with the bases load in the 10th inning and 1 out, Dozier had an opportunity to either start a difficult double play, attempt to throw out the runner heading home, or take the safe out at first base. Dozier chose to take the out at 1B, conceding what turned out to be the game winning run as the Rays went on to win the game 7-3, scoring three more times before the Twins could get out of the inning. While it is hard to fault Dozier too much for his play yesterday, his defense has been up and down all season long. He has 15 errors in 83 games, and his UZR is below zero, -2.8. While fielding% certainly does not tell the whole story, Dozier sits at .963 while the average MLB shortstop is fielding 15 points better at .978, which is four errors better over the same number of attempts. Coupled with his sub-par offensive numbers, Dozier’s defensive performance performance makes him easily expendable.
To the Twins’ credit, they keep running Dozier out there day after day, giving him the opportunity to prove he belongs, and luckily for him the Twins don’t really have a lot of other options to play in his place. Alexi Casilla has played shortstop only as a last resort, Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a complete disaster, and while the 38 year-old Jamey Carroll could slide back into the shortstop role, he will not be factoring into the Twins’ future plans, so sticking with Dozier is the best of several below average options. Hiding away at AAA Rochester is Pedro Florimon, a defense first shortstop who is hitting almost as well as Brian Dozier did before his call up, and the newly acquired Eduardo Escobar who the Twins likely view as a utility player, as he’s played 4 different positions for Rochester since joining the team just two weeks ago (and just a .557 OPS in 45 games for the Chicago White Sox).
If Brian Dozier does not make big improvements down the stretch, both offensively and defensively, he will not have a future with the Minnesota Twins.