Prospect of the Day: Brian Dozier, SS, Minnesota Twins
2012 has been a dark and dismal year in Minnesota, as the Twins stumble towards one of the worst seasons in franchise history. The two best impact prospects in the farm system, third baseman Miguel Sano and second baseman Eddie Rosario, won't be ready to help for at least a couple of years, but the team has big holes on offense, defense, and on the pitching staff that need to be filled now. Looking for help up the middle, the Twins recently promoted rookie Brian Dozier to try and plug the gap at shortstop. Is he any sort of long-term solution?
Brian Dozier was a four-year starter at Southern Mississippi, leading his club to a College World Series slot in 2009. Although his tools weren't considered special, he was an effective hitter all four years (hitting .368/.422/.488, .339/.402/.456, .342/.403/.476, and .391/.485/.587) and considered a team leader. The Twins drafted him in the eighth round and he had a stellar pro debut, hitting .353/.417/.431 in the Appalachian League after signing.
Dozier had a decent season in 2010, hitting .275/.350/.349 with 16 steals and 60 walks in 132 games split between Low-A Beloit and High-A Fort Myers. Returning to Fort Myers to open 2011, he tore through the Florida State League with a .322/.423/.472 mark in 49 games, then continued ripping the ball at a .318/.384/.502 clip in 78 games after moving up to Double-A New Britain, combining for 33 doubles, 12 triples, nine homers, 24 steals, 55 walks, and just 66 strikeouts in 491 at-bats. He looked good in the Arizona Fall League, and was hitting .276/.339/.371 in 28 games for Triple-A Rochester this spring before his promotion to Minnesota.
Listed at 5-11, 190, Dozier is a right-handed hitter and thrower, born May 15, 1987. His physical tools were considered just so-so in college and he was respected for his work ethic more than anything, but scouting opinions about his future have grown more positive as he's maintained his production in pro ball. He doesn't have star-level tools, but he's strong for his size, runs well, and has a decent arm. Originally projected as a utility player, he's convinced most scouts that he has enough range to stick at shortstop; he certainly has the savvy and instincts. He's also very good at second and has performed reliably in brief action at third base, though his arm is marginal there.
In the minors, Dozier showed gap power, solid plate discipline, and a knack for contact against all kinds of pitching. He bunts well and can play "little ball," but he'll surprise you with his power on occasion.
Although he may be just a useful utility player in the long run, the Twins have nothing to lose by playing Dozier regularly the rest of the season. He can't be worse than Jamey Carroll, he's 13 years younger, and he's consistently exceeded expectations.