Brian Dozier may not be the next Twins superstar, but he’s arguably the best Major League-ready prospect the team has. If the 24 year old shortstop picks up where he left off in 2011, he is virtually guaranteed to be called up to the Twins this summer or fall – unless he makes the team out of Spring Training.
This will be Dozier’s second consecutive year as a non-roster invitee to Fort Myers. He’ll be wearing number 77 in Grapefruit League play. That might be a hint that Dozier or the Twins has been reading Seedlings to Stars lately, because Fansided’s minor league site recently named Dozier the 77th best prospect in baseball.
At the plate, Dozier isn’t a power hitter, but he can get on base (.382 career OBP in the minors), and he can run (12 triples and 24 steals in 2011), which is a great combination to have. As for his fielding, I have never heard anyone accuse Dozier of being the next Ozzie Smith, or even the next Nick Punto, but he doesn’t get many complaints, either. In that Seedlings to Stars scouting report, writer Nathaniel Stoltz said Dozier has “average range,” and “good hands,” and a “fringy but accurate” throwing arm. The Twins put a premium on defense for their infield prospects, so it’s doubtful they’d have passed Dozier up to AA if they had any concerns about his fielding ability. The vast majority of his minor league experience has come at shortstop, but Dozier does have 43 games as a second baseman and 20 games as a third baseman under his belt.
Dozier spent his childhood and his college years in Mississippi. As a high schooler, he played football, golf, and basketball in addition to baseball. In fact, according to his college bio, Dozier’s football skills earned him a nomination for the “Wendy’s Heisman” award. The bio does not say whether or not he also earned a McDonald’s Cy Young Award or a Subway Nobel Prize, so we’ll just assume he did. Dozier never won a real Heisman trophy presumably because he stuck to baseball during his three years at Southern Mississippi.
The Twins nabbed Dozier in the 8th round in 2009, and he rewarded them with a great season at Rookie ball. Dozier destroyed Appalachian League pitching to the tune of .353/.417/.431. In 2010 he started at Beloit and then quickly graduated to Fort Myers, but his numbers dropped significantly. Still, Dozier managed a .350 on-base percentage, which is nothing to sneeze at. He also drew 60 walks against just 57 strikeouts. 2011 was a true breakout year, though. Dozier won the Twins Minor League Player of the Year award for his performance at Fort Myers and New Britain with a combined .320/.399/.491 line. Clearly, Dozier is a player who knows how to get on base.
Based on minor league production, Dozier reminds me very much of Jason Bartlett, and not just because they’re both right-handed hitting shortstops with above average baserunning ability. Like Dozier, Bartlett was drafted out of college, had a great first short season in the pros, struggled at high A ball in his second season, then really showcased his on-base skills at AA. Bartlett’s career minor league line was .299/.373/.417, which looks a lot like Dozier’s .307/.382/.420. Bartlett made his debut in the Majors at age 24, an achievement that Dozier can match if he gets a callup before May 15th.
Newly-signed shortstop Jamey Carroll stands ahead of Dozier on the depth chart, though, so Dozier will need to impress the Twins in order to reach that milestone. The Twins may look at Dozier at second base, but that position is also filled, by Alexi Casilla. Despite his versatility, it does not seem likely that Dozier would be added to the 25 man roster as a utility man. It would make far more sense to let him play every day at Rochester for the first few months of the season. Thus, Rochester is his most likely destination, unless Carroll or Casilla suffers an injury or Dozier has an amazing spring.
If you want to know more about Dozier’s personality, you can take a look at this interview he gave while playing in the Arizona Fall League last November. He seemed very calm and soft-spoken. He also said that his coaches are teaching him how to play “The Twins Way.” That’s a good thing, as long as they’re using an older version of the Twins Way textbook. I hope they’re not teaching the 2011 curriculum!
Nine down, sixteen to go. We’ll keep posting one article per day about a Twins Non-Roster Invitee until we’ve covered them all. The previous entries can be found here.