Thursday, August 16, 2012

What's the next step for Brian Dozier?

Word came out of the Twins organization on Tuesday night that Brian Dozier was going to be sent back to Triple-A Rochester after what has been a disappointing rookie campaign. There had been rumors of this happening for weeks but the timing seems strange since MLB rosters expand at the end of the month and there is only a few weeks left in the season for the Red Wings. Something hasn't clicked with Dozier during his time playing at the big league level and this could be a wake-up call for the 25-year old shortstop. A change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered and the Twins hope he can fix himself in the minor leagues.

His replacement on the roster will be Pedro Florimon, a player that joined the Twins organization as a waiver claim from Baltimore in the offseason. Florimon is in his seventh season in the minor leagues and he has only had a brief taste of the big leagues at the end of last season. His .251/.308/.344 batting line doesn't really jump off the page at you so it is hard to know what the Twins were thinking. During his time in the minor leagues, he has been known as a good defensive player so that might be one reason the organization is giving him a longer look. His offensive upside is far lower than Dozier's at this point in their careers.

When a fan base watched Tsuyoshi Nishioka play 68 games in the middle infield in 2011, any player would seem like an upgrade for the team. Even in his most recent stint with the club, Nishioka looked lost in the field and at the plate. Fans just want consistent play from the middle infield and this only makes sense with a pitch to contact starting rotation. Dozier could provide that hope to a fan base that was trying to forget about the debacle that was Nishioka. Twins Territory was searching for something to cheer about and an up-and-coming shortstop seemed like a logical player for the fans to circle around.

In a year where the Twins have seemed to be out of contention since the first month of the season, Dozier was given every opportunity to show that he should have the starting job at shortstop. He made his big league debut on May 7th and the coaching staff continued to pencil him in the line-up on an almost daily basis. There were some flashes of brilliance in the field and at the plate; but for the most part, he had a tough time finding his swing and there were some defensive miscues along the way. He hit .234/.271/.332 with 18 extra-base hits in 340 plate appearances.

Following a season when Dozier was named the organization's minor league player of the year, there were high hopes for him at the start of 2012. As a 25-year old that had only spent part of a season at the Double-A level, some of those hopes might have been a little premature. The team also called him up from Triple-A after only playing 28 games with the Red Wings. He had hardly mastered that level as he batted .276/.339/.371 with eight extra-base hits over 105 at-bats. With his games from 2011 and 2012, Dozier has played less than a season between Double-A and Triple-A. This isn't a lot of time for him to develop in the higher levels of the minor leagues and some of that lack of development showed in his first taste of the majors.

So the question now remains, what's next for Mr. Brian Dozier?

The Twins want him to be their shortstop of the present but he has shown that there are some holes in his game. Players like Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee took a little bit of time to develop in the minors before showing their ability so maybe some extra time in the minors can help Dozier's swing. But the sad thing fact is that the Twins have not been able to develop much talent in the middle infield in recent years. Last year's first round pick Levi Michael and one of the team's top prospects Eddie Rosario are both playing middle infield but they are a couple years away from debuting at Target Field. The organization needs Dozier to fix his flaws and to be ready the next time he is asked to take over at shortstop.

With a demotion at this point in the season, it seems that the Twins will let Dozier finish out the Triple-A season with the Red Wings before returning to big league squad. This will give him time to regain some confidence and to work on some of the little parts of his game. He hasn't had a lot of time to find success at the Triple-A level so the next few weeks can give him an opportunity to rediscover his stroke. Earlier this season when Ben Revere was sent back to Rochester, he made some slight adjustments to his swing and the results have been fantastic. Fans have their fingers crossed that the same magic can be worked with Dozier.

There aren't a bunch of other players knocking down the door to take the shortstop position away from Dozier for next season. Free agency is always an option but the team looked there this season and Jamey Carroll was their solution. It seems that Dozier will have as good of chance as anyone to earn the starting job for 2013 but he could have a leg up on the competition. Since he is under team control for the foreseeable future, the Twins want him to succeed and paying for a shortstop on the open market is usually an expensive endeavor.

The job is still waiting to be filled by you, Mr. Dozier. Just prove that you deserve it and the team will gladly call you back up to fill the hole at shortstop.

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