When the Twins left spring training, there were multiple Twins players in line to get playing time during their sophomore seasons. The second year can be a huge year for players trying to make their mark at the big league level. There can be positive signs during a rookie season but continuing those early impressions and making adjustments is key to solidifying a player's future.
Two of these second year players were set-up for very different starts to the season. Scott Diamond had seemingly come out of nowhere to be the Twins best starting pitcher in 2012. Brian Dozier had struggled mightily during his first trip through the American League. Diamond was lined up to fit into the rotation for multiple seasons while Dozier had plenty of question marks around him as he shifted to a new defensive position.
Early Season Impressions
Diamond started this year on the disabled list after having a bone chip removed from his elbow late in the offseason. This might have taken away from his offseason routine and this definitely showed up on the field. By the end of June, Diamond had an ERA of 5.40 with opponents batting .320/.355/.502 against him. It wasn't exactly a dream start to the year.
Dozier didn't exactly set the world on fire at the beginning of the year. In the middle of April, he was hitting under .200 and things did not improve quickly. For the month of May he hit .190/.227/.286 while being limited to four extra-base hits. There were some positive signs at his new defensive position but his offense was still reminiscent of his poor rookie campaign.
Things would continue to go downhill for Diamond in the middle portion of the season. July was another bad month as opponents hit .264/.336/.500 with six home runs in the five games he started. Other teams were hitting the ball hard and Diamond's 1.538 WHIP continued to be tough to swallow. Minnesota decided to make a change and Diamond was sent to Rochester in August for the rest of the Triple-A season.
While Diamond was busy trying to figure himself out in the minors, Dozier made some adjustments to put himself on a record-breaking pace. He knocked five home runs in June while boosting his batting line to .257/.389/.514. July saw Dozier hit 11 doubles, more than the first three months of the year combined. Ron Gardenhire developed more faith in Dozier batting near the top of the order and the second baseman made the most of this opportunity.
Rochester needed every win the team could get down the stretch and Diamond helped solidify their rotation. He made six starts at Triple-A and posted a perfect 4-0 record with a 2.40 ERA. Opponents hit .217/.259/.336 against him and he averaged almost seven innings per start. Minnesota had seen some positive changes in Diamond so they brought him back to the big leagues for the team's last handful of games. There are open spots in next season's starting rotation and Diamond needs to show that he deserves a spot.
Dozier continued his hot hitting as the Twins season has progressed. August turned into his best offensive month, as he became a power hitting threat. He hit .276/.333/.535 with six home runs, 11 doubles, and three triples. This outburst of power put Dozier on pace to set the franchise record for home runs from a second baseman. Minnesota has used Dozier at the bottom of the line-up, as a leadoff hitter and now he has worked his way to the middle of the order.
Focus on the Future
Diamond has a lot left to prove to the Twins before the 2014 season starts. There is going to be some room in the team's pocket book to court some free agent pitchers. If the Twins pursue multiple starting pitching options, Diamond could end up back in Rochester. This seems like a long shot at this point but Mr. Diamond won't feel nearly as comfortable this offseason. Maybe it is better for him to have to earn a spot than be guaranteed one.
Minnesota has Eddie Rosario pushing towards the majors but Dozier looks to be blocking his path. Fans are going to want to see Dozier continue his impressive offense for another full season. It has been rare for the Twins to have a successful middle infielder molded in their own farm system and the team seems pleased with Dozier. He has slowly become a team leader and the Twins' future plans seem more likely to include their current second baseman.
Sophomore years can be tough but Dozier and Diamond have sure taken different paths in their second year in the big leagues. Diamond in the middle of a year long sophomore slump and Dozier showing that there can be some success in a player's sophomore season.
Two different players... And Two Different Sophomore Seasons...