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Don't forget Dozier

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As the World Series combatants are now set, and we all start putting together our thoughts for what the Twins offseason should look like, one of the key positions discussed by many is the middle infield. Specifically, people are asking now who the Twins shortstop will be early in the 2013 season. Some will say Jamey Carroll. Pedro Florimon’s name is mentioned. Could the Twins go outside the organization to fill the spot?

One name that is hardly ever mentioned at this point is that of Brian Dozier.
One year ago at this time, Dozier was making a name for himself with some solid performance in the Arizona Fall League. That was coming off of a 2011 season that saw him named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. In that 2011, just the second full season in the pros for Dozier, he split time between Ft. Myers and New Britain. He combined to hit a robust .320/.399/.490 with 33 doubles, 12 triples, 9 home runs, 56 RBI, 92 Runs scored, and 24 stolen bases. He filled the stat page while quickly proving himself as a team leader and a solid defender in the field.

Despite being in a prolonged slump, Dozier made his Twins and Major League debut as a 24-year-old. In his time with the Twins, Dozier showed some flashes of the kind of talent he had displayed in 2011. He showed a little bit of power. He made some nice plays with his glove and arm. But overall, he really struggled in his debut. In 84 games and 340 plate appearances, he hit .234/.272/.332 with 11 doubles, a triple and six home runs. He was successful on nine of eleven stolen base attempts.

As you know, John Bonnes was able to interview Twins GM Terry Ryan yesterday for the Offseason GM Handbook. During their discussion, the middle infield was one of many, many Twins topics mentioned.

When asked whether he thought there were any Twins minor league middle infielders who he felt could fill the shortstop role for the next several years, Ryan said, “Yeah, yeah we do.”

When pushed, Ryan continued, “Well, it depends what you think of some of the guys we’ve got. What do you think about (Brian Dozier)? What do you think about Pedro Florimon?”

The answer to those two questions may come with very different answers for many of you. Coming into the 2012 season, I was quite high on Brian Dozier. I ranked him as my #11 Twins prospect. Now, #11 doesn’t shout out elite prospect or perennial All-Star. I agree. I don’t know of anyone who ever said that Dozier would be (although in spring training, we certainly read a few articles that pushed a reader to think that way). My thought on Dozier continues to be that he can be a solid, every day shortstop for a half-dozen years. Considering the Twins frequent musical chairs seasons at the position, a ‘solid, every day shortstop for a half-dozen years’ sounds pretty good.
Will he get there? As with any prospect, #1s, #11s or #111s, no one knows that answer. But to jump off of the Brian Dozier bandwagon because of 84 games in his first stint in the big leagues is not something that should happen. Dozier has had success in the upper levels of the minors filling out a stat line and showing leadership qualities and of solid defense.

What does Mr. Ryan think of the Florimon/Dozier/Shortstop situation?

“They’ve got the skills to play shortstop and it didn’t quite go as well, but they’re not the first guy that has come and had to go back. About every player that comes up here has to go back once or twice. We’ve got hope for Dozier and Florimon and we think they’re certainly capable of doing that job. They need some more polishing and consistency and taking a quality at-bats and all that stuff. But they have enough arm. They have enough speed. They have enough range. They have enough agility. And more importantly, they have enough baseball intellect to play the position. So. One of them is 25 [years old] and the other one is 25. And they’re getting to the point now where we should expect them to take the next step forward and we’ll be anxious to see what they look like in spring training.”

Now, Pedro Florimon has had very little offensive success in his long minor league career. However, he is known to be an elite defensive shortstop. Back in the day, that used to be enough, and frankly, assuming health, the Twins should have enough offense to account for a little less offense from a strong defensive shortstop. But this isn’t a backup catcher who plays once every five games or so. We are talking about the starting shortstop position, a guy that plays every day, so there does need to be some minimal offensive threshold. I don’t know if Florimon can reach that number.

If he can, he becomes a legitimate shortstop option, and in that case, Brian Dozier could easily transition to second base where he would do well. With Jamey Carroll around, there is always competition and a backup plan or two. Frankly, I would not spend money on another middle infielder when I believe almost all money should go to pitching. I think Dozier is very capable of stepping up in 2013 as a solid contributor.

So, I will concur with one thing that Terry Ryan said in his interview. “Don’t give up on Dozier and Florimon yet!”

To read the full transcript of John’s terrific, in-depth, exclusive interview with Terry Ryan, be sure to order your copy of the Offseason GM Handbook today.
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