Monday, May 7, 2012

Here comes Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier is to
take over as the
regular shortstop
Today Brian Dozier (and Scott Diamond) report to the Twins.

Diamond replaces fellow rookie Liam Hendriks as the fifth starter. I touched briefly on that in the Monday print column, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in the next day or so.

Today, let's talk Dozier, who Ron Gardenhire said Sunday on his radio show will be his everyday shortstop now. Dozier turns 25 next week, he's a right-handed hitter, he was an eighth-round pick as a college senior (most collegians sign as juniors), and he shot up the ladder pretty quickly, never spending a full season at any minor league level.

Unlike Diamond (or Hendriks), Dozier wasn't a September call-up last year; the Twins didn't have to put him on the 40-man roster last winter, so they saved the roster spot. So tonight figures to be Dozier's major-league debut.

The word out of spring training was that Dozier was the best defensive shortstop in camp, and Ron Gardenhire appeared to favor making him the shortstop then. The Twins stuck with the offseason plan of Jamey Carroll at short (and Alexi Casilla at second) because:

  • Dozier had about a half-season of Double A ball on his resume and no time in Triple A;
  • The two veterans were expected to be better hitters than Dozier;
  • By delaying Dozier's debut, the Twins depressed his service time and perhaps put off his arbitration eligibility.

Jamey Carroll turns a double play Saturday
against the Mariners.
In fairness to Terry Ryan, that last was probably a minor point. This call-up is early enough that, assuming Dozier sticks, he'll probably be a "Super Two" and arbitration eligible after 2014. (And if all goes well, last year's first-round pick, Levi Michael, might be knocking at the major-league door by then.)

Carroll has been a competent defensive shortstop for the first month or so of the season. And durable, too; he's played all but one inning in the field, which would be fairly impressive for a shortstop a decade younger (Carroll is 38).

But Carroll hasn't hit -- slash line .206/.306/.237. He has drawn 13 walks, second on the team to Joe Mauer, but .306 isn't a good on-base percentage for anybody, much less a top-of-the-order guy, and he's not a power threat.

Dozier isn't going to fix the offense. But one can reasonably expect him to do better than a .543 OPS (Carroll) or .597 (Casilla), whichever comes out of the lineup to make room for the rookie. Dozier may be only a marginal upgrade in the field and at the plate, but even a marginal improvement helps.

Adding Dozier gives the Twins a legitimate middle infielder on the bench, which may have the indirect effect of helping Trevor Plouffe. Remember, part of the idea of moving Plouffe to the outfield was to replicate what happened to Michael Cuddyer when he made the move from infield to outfield. With the defensive burden lifted, Cuddyer became a better hitter. Plouffe hasn't had that improvement happen yet; he hasn't really had that opportunity. He's been pressed into service as the backup infielder as well as a part-time outfielder; instead of decreasing his defensive responsibilities, the Twins increased them.


  1. In what way to you consider Dozier and upgrade over Carroll in the field? Is it based on range? Carroll is about as sure-handed as you get and, if up the middle defense is still important, he is the man. I think they should drop him in the order or move him to second if Dozier can add pop and play comparable defense to Carroll. Time to give up on Casilla.

  2. These moves won't make any difference. It feels like the team has quit and there's discord in the front office.

    Pioneer Press had an article Sunday that pointed to late April as the beginning of the hitting drop off. Which is interesting since that's when we see signs of the discord.

    At the time you wrote about sources saying that the Twins might sign Brandon Inge to platoon with Sean Burroughs and demote Danny Valencia. Shortly thereafter Burroughs was demoted. So we know what side of that argument Terry Ryan was on, my guess is the other side was Ron Gardenhire.

    If that's correct does the funk the Twins are in show what the clubhouse thinks of this? And has Gardenhire lost this team? I mostly like Gardy as manager, but he may not be what we need this year. I've never felt that he gets the best out of younger players and that's probably going to be a lot of our players by the end of the season.

  3. Anonymous: The assessment of Dozier as the superior defensive player is based on reports out of training camp. I haven't seem him. range would be a logical reason for the assessment..

    TimK: managers and general managers aren't always in agreement on player moves, and it would be silly to expect otherwise. In this case, it seems pretty obvious that Gardenhire is getting what he wanted in March.