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  • Eight Reasons Why Brian Dozier Should Start at Shortstop for the Twins in 2012

    [Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar]

    He wasn't a household name last year at this time, even among many followers of the Twins' minor league system, but much has changed in the past 12 months. Depending on whom you speak to in the front office, there seem to be differing interpretations on Dozier's role in the Twins' organization this season. Make no mistake -- everyone is speaking of him highly right now. Terry Ryan, for instance, recently mentioned that he would not hesitate to call a player like Dozier up to the major leagues straight from AA New Britain, saying, "[t]hat's not going to scare us off. If he looks like he's mature enough . . . ." And we all know, now, that Ron Gardenhire actually wanted Dozier on the team last season, but that request was refused by management (side note: what does that tell you about how dire the Twins' middle infield situation was?).

    If Dozier stays healthy, and remains productive, it's a matter of when, not if, he will make his Twins debut. But today, I want to give you 8 reasons I think the Twins should add Dozier to the 40 man roster, award him the starting shortstop job in Minnesota for 2012, and call it a done deal.

    
    Brian Dozier can take the shortstop job and run with it in 2012
    
    1. Defensively, I acknowledge that some aren't very high on Dozier, and actually view him as more of a second baseman. Even assuming that he is not the greatest defensive shortstop (although the reports have been pretty positive this spring), the falloff from 38 year old Jamey Carroll to 24 year old Dozier will not be significant. Carroll has limited range, and actually was not even predominately a shortstop earlier in his career. I simply don't see a downside -- defensively -- to having Dozier man the 6-hole, when compared with the alternative.


    2. Correspondingly, if Dozier plays shortstop, Carroll could move to second base. Carroll can still bat at the top of the order and be that on-base guy that the Twins desperately need, but I think he would be better, and perhaps more comfortable, at second. The stats on Carroll seem to suggest just that: his total defensive contribution at second has been positive (49 runs above average), but has been negative (4 runs below average) at shortstop.


    3. Taking this one step further, having Dozier at short and Carroll at second essentially solves the Twins' utility infielder conundrum: Alexi Casilla is the answer. The Twins do not need to think about looking outside the organization for a Nick Punto-esque player (or even Nick Punto himself) to play second and short in a pinch.


    4. The Twins, in all likelihood, won't be winning the division this season. Even if things go right offensively, I think the starting pitching will again be problematic. I'm not going call 2012 a rebuilding year, because a team with a $100 million payroll is not in rebuilding mode, but still it's fair to point out that, with the Tigers perceived dominance and the Twins' perceived weaknesses, it could be a challenging year. What better time to bring in a young prospect. Sure, the expectations will still be high for Dozier, but it presents a good opportunity to let a young guy get a year of MLB experience under his belt.


    5. The Twins haven't shied away from aggressive moves this month, most notably by demoting failed shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to AAA Rochester. The organization, in my opinion, has effectively admitted that the $14.5 million investment in Nishioka was a bust -- but also that the team will not let Nishioka take up a spot on the Target Field bench just because of the paycheck he is "earning." Tough love, indeed, for Nishioka. But Nishioka's loss -- and the Twins' aggressive move to jettison him -- could bode well for Dozier. Additionally, if the Twins plan to use Nishioka at shortstop in Rochester, he will have to split time with Dozier there. From a practicality standpoint, if the Twins ever want Nishioka to get better, he will have to play every day somewhere, just like Dozier. Another aggressive decision -- this time a promotion instead of a demotion -- will send the signal to some of the other young prospects (and perhaps some of our veterans) that hard work can quickly be rewarded in this organization.


    6. Dozier has not looked lost in Spring Training. I haven't been following every at-bat, but I have read enough to know that Dozier is holding his own (batting .273 going into Thursday's game), and there has been little mention of bonehead fielding plays or dumb baserunning gaffes. Not that these won't come with any rookie, but it's fair to state that Dozier has not embarrassed himself at all while playing alongside some guys he probably looks up to in a pretty big way.


    7. Why should Dozier spend a superficial 3 or 4 months at Rochester? If the Twins expect Dozier to hit major league pitching in the very near future -- like July or August or September of 2012 -- and then to continue hitting major league pitching for the next 10 or more years, why not start now, especially if there are not very many good players at Dozier's position above him on the depth chart? In Rochester, Dozier would be seeing some pitchers on their way up, some on their way down, and maybe a couple major league pitchers rehabbing injuries, but the competition would not be as fierce.


    8. Last, but not least, this move gives fans something to be excited about. Carroll is not by any means a sexy or dynamic player. Dozier, on the other hand, could be the first in a wave of "new Twins" (hopefully soon to include Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee), like Mauer and Morneau in the early 2000s, and gamers like Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie and Johan Santana before that, and Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti even before that.


    There are probably 8 or more reasons not to directly promote Dozier (including the issue of whether he is really going to be a solid defensive shortstop, the fact that having Casilla as the utility infielder raises an issue for a substitute third baseman, and the argument that the Twins should wait to promote Dozier to avoid him achieving Super 2 status), but I'm not convinced by any of them. Under my plan, the only thing that is really "lost" is a full season of Casilla at second base. But I guess I'm at the point with Casilla where I would rather gamble on Dozier, who admittedly is not a sure thing, than on Casilla, who most certainly is not a sure thing (and is no longer a young player, either). In the worst case scenario, Dozier cannot hack it in the majors yet, and will be sent down. This could be tough on Dozier, but it happens dozens of times a season, sometimes even to well established players -- but you know what -- adults learn to deal with it.


    I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. Am I way off-base here? Or do you agree Dozier is ready for his shot?
    This article was originally published in blog: Eight Reasons Why Brian Dozier Should Start at Shortstop for the Twins in 2012 started by Twins Fan From Afar
    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Great article, and I'm completely on board with moving Carroll to 2B to make room for Dozier... but probably in a month...

      There are probably 8 or more reasons not to directly promote Dozier (including the issue of whether he is really going to be a solid defensive shortstop, the fact that having Casilla as the utility infielder raises an issue for a substitute third baseman, and the argument that the Twins should wait to promote Dozier to avoid him achieving Super 2 status), but I'm not convinced by any of them.
      His SS defense... too early for us to know at this point because we've likely only seen him play there 2-3 times in the last year. Would need to see him more consistently.

      Casilla as UT raises questions at 3B - Casilla played there two years ago when he was the UT guy, and Luke Hughes can give Valencia a day off. If Valencia is healthy, he's good for 155 games.

      Super 2 status - I'm not worried as much about the Super 2 status as I am about keeping his rights for another season. If he comes up right away, he becomes a free agent after the 2017 season. If the Twins wait until May 1 to call him up, he will be a Super 2, but he won't be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Just for the chance that he really takes off, I'm willing to wait a month!
    1. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
      Twins Fan From Afar -
      Thanks for the comment, Seth. You're right -- Valencia is at least workhorse, if not a great 3rd baseman.
      Good clarification on the Super 2 and rights issue. I'd of course like to hang onto him as long as possible, too. I could wait till May if it bought us an entire extra year. I'm simply not willing to wait until the second half of the season.
    1. bteichr's Avatar
      bteichr -
      I like starting Dozier, but I'd rather see him at 2B with Casilla at SS and Carroll as the utility infielder.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by bteichr View Post
      I like starting Dozier, but I'd rather see him at 2B with Casilla at SS and Carroll as the utility infielder.
      Could do it either way... I prefer Carroll's OBP in the top part of the lineup... but it could be a situation where Dozier starts 5 out of 6 games at SS. Carroll and Casilla each get 3 starts a week at 2B, and one of them get a start at SS each week.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I don't mind if Dozier makes the team out of spring training. Various quotes earlier this spring make me think he still has things to work on. I rather expect the Twins will start him at AAA. Still, he is close to a finished product and overall, defensively and offensively he could likely be as productive as Carroll at short.

      I question why the Twins would move Carroll over to start at 2nd. Carroll is a career utility man. He is comfortable moving from position to positon. He clearly plays 3rd well. He is also 38 years old and making him a full time starter for what is really the first time in his career is a bit unusual.

      More importantly the Twins really need to find out if the high level play Casilla has shown in flashes, is the real Casilla. I expect Casilla will start at 2nd, no matter what is done with Dozier. I expect the leash to be relatively short. Casilla needs to perform a higher level, no more month long slumps offensively and defensively.

      You can always move Carroll over to 2nd or out of the utility role at any time, if Casilla doesn't perform consistently.
    1. LimestoneBaggy's Avatar
      LimestoneBaggy -
      I agree with the arguments, but I (don't throw me off the porch on this) want to see Casilla's hitting and fielding before I demote him to a utility player. Optimism runs eternal, but he's been showing positive signs, and that, along with Carroll's track history (steady) and Dozier's relative inexperience, leads me to a month or two. Keep performing Dozier and he will get his chance, but don't put him on the bench at the majors (Jim H. beat me to the punch, but at least we agree on most points).
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      What are the chances that Michael Hollimon makes the team at SS or 2B? He has been tearing the cover off the ball. But I'm not down there. He's already played (a little) at the ML level. I read one story yesterday where Gardy and TK were working with him defensively at Shortstop in a practice session on another field.

      So what are his chances? Could we trade Casilla and have Dozier and Hollimon playing regularly?
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I hope Dozier spends at least the first 2 months at Rochester gaining AAA experience and giving the Twins another year of him being under control. During the same two months--Casilla gets last shot at being a regular. If it works Carroll becomes utility, if it doesnt work, bring up Dozier and make Casilla utility.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      The only logical flaw for moving Casilla for Carroll and Dozier, is that right now Casilla is the better player... If one of the 3 should be the utility guy should be Carroll
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Super 2 status - I'm not worried as much about the Super 2 status as I am about keeping his rights for another season. If he comes up right away, he becomes a free agent after the 2017 season. If the Twins wait until May 1 to call him up, he will be a Super 2, but he won't be a free agent until after the 2018 season. Just for the chance that he really takes off, I'm willing to wait a month!
      We could be seeing this all wrong. Guessing at the timing of a new player generation is a little like predicting the weather. You know it's going to rain sometime in spring, but guessing exactly when it's going to happen can baffle even the math mentats with supercomputers and equations a block long. I remember when Hrbek, Puck and Gaetti came up, it was obvious they were the new generation. This time it's not that obvious from a talent standpoint, but the age of these guys (1), the low quality of the present team (2), plus the future emergence of guys like Sano, Rosario and Levi Michael (3) should count as important factors in whether to start playing the Rochester kids now or later.

      When should the Twins start the new experiment? How about right after a 99-loss season, when it can't get much worse? I know Parmelee's not Hrbek, Benson's not Puckett, etc. But however good this crop is going to be, it's better to find out early than to wait until the next crop (Sano, et al) is ready for their own early entrance. As for the "more seasoning" argument, I don't see it. None of these new guys has stood out as a dingbat on the field. Parmelee, Hughes, Benson, Dozier and Hendriks all have looked competent. None of them threw to the wrong base or show a clumsy glove. Hendriks didn't lose control, balk or other dumb stuff. In fact, I saw just the opposite. I thought Parmelee and Hughes showed signs of becoming team leaders. I think Benson looks like another possible Marty Cordova. Dozier looks solid in all areas, and Hendriks so far does deserve comparisons to Brad Radke.

      Will any of these guys measure up to our fondest dreams? Well, that's why they play the game, and that's why you put them in.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      When should the Twins start the new experiment? How about right after a 99-loss season, when it can't get much worse? .
      The problem is that the people who are currently running the Twins do not have that mindset. They like to keep their players under cheap club control mostly. The 99 loss season was a golder opportunity to start a new with new front office and new field management (like what Boston did pretty much) rather than re-assign the titular head of the FO to other parts of the organization. This is the "Twins' Way". And unless they start getting people from outside the organization, that philosophy will propagate. That simple.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Dozier made the play of the game yesterday on a high chopper, had to jump to snag it then fired it across the diamond from deep in the hole to get the out. I've said before that Dozier probably needs some time at AAA to see where he'll fit, but he's very rapidly changing that opinion. He looks ready.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I don't think giving him the job now makes the most sense for Dozier or for the Twins. He could use some AAA seasoning, and by giving it to him, it pushes back his arb clock a bit, which makes sense as he's really only a stop gap until you get Michael/Rosario/Goodrum, all of whom project to be pretty decent regulars. Even if they were to faulter, it's that much longer you get to keep him. As well, right now, he's not much of an upgrade (if any at all) over what we have, so you are essentially starting that service time and disrupting someone in the clubhouse. I just don't see the point. Better to let him work on some issues in AAA. His presence there will certainly provide a constant reminder to the middle infield that their jobs are not set in stone should they falter.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Dollars & sense are important, but as a Twins fan I would prefer to see some young fellas in there given that we are in a rebuilding mode... not retooling. Last year Dozier really accelerated his time frame to the majors. I understand the Carroll signing, but he is a fair hitting, good fielding Utility player. Has he ever had a starting job promised to him at the beginning of Spring Training? No. The Willingham signing wasn't awful, but in terms of where this franchise is, I would have given Benson the opportunity to be the RF. He has a much bigger arm, is much, much, much faster and could add the same kind of pop to the line-up (great athlete). It's a risk, but one I would be willing to take. On that note, I'd also take Hendricks over Marquis. I understand that these signings helped solve the equation of the team's depth, but does it stunt or build the growth of this franchise's future? I believe the former.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I would hope the Twins don't use service time as any kind of deciding factor. He does not project a ton of power or speed. For middle infielders, those are they biggest factors in both arbitration and contract negotiations. On the off chance he does turn out to be Michael Young (and their minor league stats are actually very similar and Young too waited until he was 24 to get the call) the Twins probably would deserve any criticism they recieve
      for keeping a talanted player down for monetary reasons.
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