Saturday, February 1, 2014

Eye on 2014: Second base

Brian Dozier (2) brings one of his 18 home runs home.
He hit more dingers in 2013 than he had in his four
minor league seasons combined (16).
There will be no spring training suspense about second base for the Twins. With the 50-game suspension of Eddie Rosario kicking in at the start of the season, the only way Brian Dozier won't be the regular this year is if he gets crippled.

But Dozier, 27 in May, is a prime yardstick by which to measure this team's progress.

He spent most of 2013 hitting in the upper third of the lineup: leadoff after Aaron Hicks failed so emphatically there in the first month, second when Ron Gardenhire opted to return Joe Mauer to the third slot, third in September when Mauer was sidelined, Justin Morneau traded and Josh Willingham hobbled.

Dozier hit .244/.312/.414 with 18 homers — dead average by OPS+. That's fine for a good defensive second baseman, which Dozier is. But it's not productive enough to justify 620-plus plate appearances.

The Twins were 13th in the 15-team American League in runs scored in 2013, a ranking that cannot be over emphasized. Dozier was part of the problem. Or, more specifically, the fact that Dozier was justifiably in the top third of the lineup was part of the problem.

The Twins won't be a good offensive team until Dozier is hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, not the top third. If he's hitting 1-2-3, it means either that the rest of the lineup is as bad as it was in 2013 (pretty darn bad) or that the manager is constructing a substandard batting order.

My guess is that in April, Dozier will be in the upper third, for reason No. 1. We should hope that as the wave of talent arrives, Dozier slides to a more appropriate lineup slot.

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