It's been a rough year for the Minnesota Twins but one very bright spot has been the historic performance of second baseman Brian Dozier, who has set an American League record for home runs by a second baseman in a single season. He's hitting .274/.345/.560 through 151 games with 42 homers, 99 RBI, 16 steals in 18 attempts. Add solid defense to the mix and you come up with a 6.1 fWAR, ranking him sixth among American League position players.
A couple of readers asked for a look at Dozier's prospect past. We wrote up one back in March of 2015 and today's article is based on that with some updates.
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).
At the end of 2014 the Twins signed him to a new four-year contract. I wrote at the time:
"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."
His 2015 season (.236/.307/.444, 28 homers) was similar to 2014, but 2016 has been amazing. Obviously the contract looks terrific now.
I liked Dozier as a prospect but did not anticipate he would develop this kind of power. For the future, my guess is that he'll remain effective through the rest of the contract but more on the order of 2014 and 2015. 2016 will most likely be the best year of his career.
What do you guys think?