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In the path that Brian Dozier blazed: A 2014 breakout candidate for the Twins

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Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch

I think that it is fair to say that Brian Dozier's 2013 season (especially his power numbers) was not expected by many based on his fairly disappointing 2012 rookie season and his fairly flat minor league career. But was there anything is his path through the minors that could have acted as a leading indicator potentially predicting his 2013 breakout season?

After he was drafted in the 8th round of the 2009 draft Dozier moved in a pretty typical path through the Twins organization for a 22 year old: Rookie leagues in 2009, split between A and high A in 2010 and split between high A and double AA, in his age 24 season. That was the season when Dozier finally got it all together. Here is a graph of his OPS and ISO throughout his career

His age 24 season shows a noticeable increase in his OPS and, especially, his ISO that doubled from previous marks and was approaching the .200s . His power (but not his OPS - which means that he still potentially has ways to go in the major league level) was very similar to that exhibited in his age 26 MLB season (2013).

Also to be noted that Dozier, after his 2011 season, continued the success in the AFL: .296/.358/.454 (.821 OPS, .158 ISO). He did have a setback in 2012, but that whole Twins' season was a setback.

Let's superimpose the above chart with a chart that shows the OPS and ISO numbers per season of another Twins' player and align them for age:

As you can see, this player has started his professional career earlier that Dozier did and had similar moderate success. However, like Dozier, in his age 24 season (at AAA instead of Dozier's A/A+) had a major breakthrough with increases in OPS and ISO to close to all-star levels. Actually at the same age, at a higher level of competition, his OPS and power numbers were better than Dozier's, which makes me believe that he will potentially have a season similar to Dozier's 2013 next season. The player?

Eduardo Escobar

Also of note is that Escobar (like Dozier in 2011) is continuing his breakthough 2013 season in the Venezuela Winter League: .302/.348/.519 (.867 OPS, .217 ISO) at the time this was written

How about fielding which was another strong suit of Brian Dozier's ?

Here are the MLB career numbers for Dozier:

.992 FP% 2B (1255 Inn), .964 FP% SS (732 Inn),
UZR/150: -0.7 2B, -5.0 SS,
RZR .832 2B (MLB best 2013: .842), .796 SS (MLB Best 2013: .876; Florimon .838)

and Escobar:

1.000 FP% 2B (149.7 Inn), .951 FP% 3B (287.7 Inn), .959 FP% SS (281.2 Inn)
UZR/150: -6.0 2B, -16.2 3B, 5.1 SS.
RZR: .813 2B (MLB best 2013: .842), .641 3B, .814 SS (MLB Best 2013: .876; Florimon .838)

Both Dozier and Escobar do not make many errors. UZR/150 does not like Dozier and Escobar in 2B and 3B, but likes Escobar at SS. Revized Zone Rating has Dozier near the MLB top at second base abd Escobar above average at both 2B and SS (but not that great at 3B). Noted that Escobar's defense at SS is close to Florimon's as far as UZR/150 and RZR are concerned, but he is making fewer errors than Florimon.

Could Escobar be the Twins' SS of the near future and Escobar & Dozier the Twins double play combination for a while? Time will tell, but if Dozier's very similar career is an indicator, it looks like a very true possibility, starting with the 2014 season.

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  1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    This is excellent analysis! I really like Escobar too, and I hope he beats Florimon out for the SS job in Spring Training. I think his offensive upside is clearly higher and he might even be a better defender. He's 2 years younger than Florimon too, so there's no downside.
  2. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    I was pretty sure that Escobar got sent down in 2013 (to AAA) to play more SS and refine his skills. His .880 OPS in 188 PA showed a fluency with the bat that should have pleased everyone.

    Can he sustain this? I don't know, but when he came back to the Twins in September (SSS) his offensive numbers were very good for a SS. They featured a .324 BA and a .343 OBP for the 24 year old.

    I like Florimon as a fielder and wish him the best, but I believe the stronger Twins team has Escobar starting at SS and Florimon perhaps serving as the utility infielder.

    Like the parallels with Dozier. Good work. Thanks Thry.
    Updated 11-25-2013 at 10:31 AM by Oldgoat_MN (stupid keyboard)
  3. ericchri's Avatar
    If he pulled a Dozier and made our SS spot in the lineup suddenly look acceptable as opposed to really bad, and could pull that off while drawing a wash in the defensive department with Florimon, that would be a good catalyst to a turnaround for the Twins. Hoping this analysis works out to come true. Thanks!
  4. IronMonkee's Avatar
    I don't know how I feel about a sample size of 1, but I do hope you're right.
  5. Thrylos's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by IronMonkee
    I don't know how I feel about a sample size of 1, but I do hope you're right.
    Not exactly a sample size of 1. Lots of PAs and def reps in there, because the comparison is minor league careers and seasons.... I guess one can describe an entire baseball career as sample size of 1
  6. Linus's Avatar
    I've always liked the way he swings the bat. I also don't understand people wanting to peg him as a utility guy when he's only 24 and made his way to the big leagues rather quickly. He can easily improve as a hitter and fielder and, if that happens, he's clearly preferable to Florimon. I would give him every chance to win the SS job.
  7. DocBauer's Avatar
    I think everyone forgets how young he is. Probably because the Sox pulled him up too soon and his stats were not very good. Not surprising considering his age and lack of consistent every day playing time.

    All reports we've heard are good glove and athletic with a little speed. If he could supplant Floriman, who I LOVE for his glove, and people undervalue due to the Twins general lack of overall offense lately, I think we'd be better overall. At worse, I think he could platoon at SS against LHP and be a great sub at several positions.
  8. DocBauer's Avatar
    On a side note, my choice a break-out candidate is Hicks. He is so gifted, and last season's rush and failure, along with the tremendous and worthwhile excitement over Buxton, has tempered people's opinions, probably far too much.

    Since he was drafted, it was known he was raw and would take some time. He has often been compared to Tori Hunter, and probably rightfully so. And like Hunter, he has shown slow but steady progress, always adjusting and growing at each level. I believe he was simply rushed last season.

    And less we forget, he was showing signs of actually improving before his injury last year. With his excellent defense, he could learn on the job, hit .230-.250, still provide 20 SB's, possibly 20 HR's and 30 plus doubles with a smattering of triples and still be a real asset.
  9. Twins best friend's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by DocBauer
    On a side note, my choice a break-out candidate is Hicks...Since he was drafted, it was known he was raw and would take some time. He has often been compared to Tori Hunter, and probably rightfully so.
    I agree with this or would it be so bad if he was a David Murphy+ type? I'd think Hicks would bring more to the table in defense and speed but David Murphy has been a solid offensive contributor.
  10. kab21's Avatar
    Consider me unimpressed. the only thing that indicates Escobar is anything more than a utility player is a 43 game AAA sample size that includes a .373 BAPIP.
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