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Brian Dozier: Breakthrough?

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Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier had a solid 2013 season

Brian Dozier
Brian Dozier
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The development of second baseman Brian Dozier was a bright spot amidst the wreckage of Minnesota's 2013 season. This hasn't received much attention outside of Twins circles, but I think he bears a closer look.

Dozier was drafted by the Twins in the eighth round in 2009 from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a very effective and solid college player for four seasons, but wasn't considered especially toolsy and was seen as a future utility type. After an adequate A-ball season in 2010, he broke out in '11 with a .320/.399/.491 season, dominating both High-A and Double-A.

2012 was a step back performance-wise: he split the season between the major leagues and Triple-A and wasn't especially impressive at either level, hitting .232/.286/.337 at Rochester and .234/.271/.332 in Minnesota. Entering 2013, he needed to make a big splash to hold a long-term job with the Twins, considering the next wave of talent approaching the majors, including second baseman Eddie Rosario.

Taking over as the regular second baseman this year (after playing shortstop in '12), Dozier hit .244/.312/.414, which may not sound like a hot slash line, but includes some notable numbers. He knocked 33 doubles and 18 home runs, stole 14 bases, and was a hair above average as an offensive player overall with a wRC+ of 101. This ranked sixth among American League second baseman. The 18 homers ranked second among AL second basemen.

Although not the flashiest gloveman in the world, he is very reliable in terms of avoiding errors, with a .992 fielding percentage that ranked third among league regulars, just slightly behind Ben Zobrist and Dustin Pedroia at .993. Depending on what metric you look at, his range was average or slightly above average. Overall, the combination of decent range and excellent reliability ranks him out as a solid defender.

His complete fWAR came out at 2.8, which ranked fifth among AL second basemen, not excellent but certainly enough for him to hold his job. Compared to his 2012 performance, he took large steps forward in every department, breaking through from possible utilityman to legitimate regular.

I think it possible that he can improve further: Dozier will be 27 next spring, making his 2014 season the classic window for a career peak. Ideally I'd like to see Dozier improve his OBP and batting average, and given what he did in the minors I think this is possible.

The Twins have a strong second base prospect in Eddie Rosario, who handled Double-A well in '13. The development of Dozier buys Rosario some time: there will be less of a temptation to rush the prospect past Triple-A.