The Minnesota Twins signed second baseman Brian Dozier to a four-year contract extension worth $20,000,000 earlier this week. That makes this an excellent time for a Prospect Retrospective and Career Profile!
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, hitting .355/.426/.491 over four springs although keep in mind that offense was at an all-time high in the NCAA at the time. Scouts saw Dozier's tools as average in most respects and he was generally projected as a utility player or strong organizational talent.
He hit .353/.417/.431 in 53 games in the Appalachian League after signing, but as a college senior he was expected to do well at that level. In 2010 he hit .278/.347/.338 for Low-A Beloit in 39 games, then .274/.352/.354 in 93 games for High-A Fort Myers. Here is the report I wrote on him in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book:
Dozier has average tools, but is quite polished, with strong plate discipline. He doesn’t have a huge amount of power, but he’s not a wuss at the plate and can’t be overlooked, either. He has some statistical markers of a sleeper, namely an excellent BB/K/AB ratio, and scouts like his work ethic and field presence. His range at shortstop is limited and he’s better at second base, but I can see him being a good utility guy. My intuition has pointed him out as a player to watch since he was a college sophomore. Grade C.
2011 was a breakout season.
He hit .322/.423/.472 with 27 walks and just 20 strikeouts in 49 games for Fort Myers. Promoted to Double-A New Britain, he remained hot with a .318/.384/.502 mark and 28 walks, 46 strikeouts in 311 at-bats. The overall line was .320/.399/.491. The report entering 2012:
Dozier broke out last year, dominating the Florida State League (OPS +25) and continuing to mash after being promoted to the Double-A Eastern League (OPS +22). His plate discipline slipped somewhat at the higher level, which isn’t unusual, but he kept his strikeout rate under control. Scouting reports continue to report mediocre-to-average tools, but now emphasize his feel for the game, excellent work ethic, and doubles power. Although his range and arm strength are marginal at shortstop, he is very reliable in terms of avoiding mistakes and making the routine play. I like him. At worst he’ll be a fine utility player, and there’s a non-negligible chance he can hit and field well enough to start for some teams. Grade B-.
Dozier spent most of 2012 with Minnesota, hitting .234/.271/.332 in 316 at-bats. That wasn't too good, but it was enough to hold his job in combination with his defense. He improved substantially in 2013 (.244/.312/.414 with 18 homers in 147 games, 2.6 fWAR), the continued steady progression in 2014 (.242/.345/.416, 33 doubles, 23 homers, 89 walks, 23 steals, 4.8 fWAR).
So is this contract worth it? Statistical projection systems aren't wild about Dozier, as explored in this Fangraphs article by Brett Talley. Dozier as a mature major leaguer is a bit different than what he was when younger: he's emphasized power development at the expense of batting average. In college and the low minors he looked like a guy who could hit .260-.270 with enough doubles and walks to be useful. Instead he's become a .240 hitter but with more isolated power and more strikeouts.
Sim Score comps are interesting: through age 27 we find Dale Sveum, Bobby Crosby, Danny Espinosa, Damian Jackson, Ted Lepcio, Tim Teufel, Bernie Allen, Don Zimmer, Gary Alexander, and Andre Rodgers as the top comps. That's not exactly an exciting list. Crosby isn't a good comp since his success was front-loaded then injuries struck. We don't know what will happen with Espinosa given that he is an exact contemporary.
I like the Tim Teufel comp as he was a lowish batting average hitter with some power and steady defense, plus he was a Twin too, as was Bernie Allen. It should be noted that Dozier's career bWAR value through age 27 (9.6) is better than every other player on this list, which shows up the limitations of the Sim Score method making comparisons across era. The closest is Teufel. Teufel fought injuries in his late 20s but when healthy he maintained his skills until age 32.
A four-year contract for Dozier seems reasonable to me; he'll be 31 when the contract is up, just entering the typical decline phase.