Name: Brian Dozier
Notable 2011 Stats: .322/.423/.472 with 11 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 20/27 K/BB, and 13-for-17 SB in 49 games with Fort Myers (High-A);
.318/.384/.502 with 22 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, 46/28 K/BB, and 11-for-18 SB in 78 games with New Britain (AA);
.320/.399/.491 with 33 2B, 12 3B, 9 HR, 66/55 K/BB and 24-for-35 SB in 117 games total
Why He’s This High: Dozier started out the season as an afterthought, a nearly-24-year-old middle infielder with grit, a good eye, and little else, giving him a utility ceiling. However, he broke out in High-A and sustained his performance in Double-A, showing a wide base of skills that allow him to project as a solid starter.
Dozier has a great eye and good contact skills at the plate, and he’s walked nearly as many times as he’s struck out in his minor league career. Between those skills and his solid-average speed, he should get on base at a solid clip in the big leagues, which is invaluable; consider that only twelve everyday shortstops posted OBPs of .325 or higher in MLB in 2011.
Dozier also grew into some power in 2011, as he came up with 54 extra-base hits, which was an unexpected development. He’s probably just a 7-11 homer hitter, but he has enough gap power to make pitchers respect him, and his pitch selection skills help him see more pitches than most, allowing him more time to force a pitcher to make a mistake.
Defensively, Dozier isn’t spectacular at shortstop, but he’s quite functional, and he fielded .977 at short in 2011. His arm is fringy but accurate, and he has good hands and average range for the position.
Why He’s This Low: Dozier turns 25 in May, so he’s quite old for a prospect, and he hasn’t even seen Triple-A yet. He has exactly one above-average offensive season, and he was old for his levels, so his breakout still meets many skeptics. In 2009-2010, he was putting up ISOs in the .060-.080 range, which makes his .171 mark in 2011 look like a big outlier. Certainly, some of the power is for real, but we shouldn’t necessarily expect Dozier to continue ripping three triples per month or two doubles per week.
His strikeout-to-walk rate notably declined with his promotion to Double-A, from 1.35 to 0.61, and we’ll have to see what happens when he continues to move up and face pitchers his own age. His defense probably won’t be much above average at shortstop, so he’ll need to prove both that his power spike is for real and that he can at least maintain his walk and strikeout rates from Double-A if he wants to be more than just a placeholder.
Conclusions: Dozier could be Jamey Carroll with more power—a scrappy OBP machine who can handle short and is a plus defender at second. Carroll has been worth 4.7 WAR over the past two seasons in spite of his complete lack of power, so if Dozier really can provide Carroll-like OBPs (.360) and AVGs (.290), and post a higher ISO, he could be a three-win player annually. Since he’s clearly done with Double-A and is fairly old, a good start in Triple-A could get him to Minnesota very quickly; in fact, he could compete for the shortstop job in the spring if the Twins don’t bring in a big free agent. A Carroll-like career as a marginal starter/plus utility player seems to be his floor unless his 2011 was a complete fluke; his upside would be a quietly above-average MLB shortstop.
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