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Dozier Poised For 2018 Of Contract Proportions

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 31 January 2018 · 1,483 views

minnesota twins brian dozier
Entering the 2018 Major League Baseball season, Brian Dozier looks to his future and sees free agency looming. Despite allowing the Minnesota Twins to buy out his arbitration years in a four-year, $20 million deal, the hometown squad couldn't lock him in past free agency. Now, as the two sides ponder an extension, it's worth wondering how the year ahead could go for one of baseball's best players.

Dating back to 2014, only Jose Altuve has been at the position (in terms of fWAR) than the Twins two-bagger. In that time, Dozier has become an All Star, Home Run Derby participant, Gold Glove winner, and MVP vote getter. He began as an aging and failed shortstop, and revolutionized himself into a premium player at a position generally void of them across the sport.

Despite hitting 42 long balls in 2016, Dozier's emergence as an offensive threat has been anything but a slow burn. He's been on a relative tear for the past four seasons. With a slash line of .254/.338/.476 and 127 homers since 2014, there's no denying that the Mississippi native could be inserted into the heart of many lineups across the sport.

Looking at the year ahead and beyond, it's worth wondering what to expect from Brian, and what that tells us about any more potentially on the table. First and foremost, it's worth mentioning that there seems to be a heightened level of performance in the final year of deals. Both Dozier and the Twins could strike a match before spring training ends, and while there's not an exact science to it, nothing on the table could prove as motivation to reach new heights.

In somewhat of an interesting case, Dozier is a late bloomer. He didn't reach the big leagues until 25, and he didn't become a significant cog until his age 27 season in 2014. He's played at least 152 games each of the past four years, and while there's been slumps tied loosely to overuse, his availability to the Twins has been remarkable.
Recent memory serves Dozier even more favorably. Over the past two seasons, Dozier has posted back to back .800+ OPS numbers, and compiled a .269/.349/.522 slash line. His 131 OPS+ jumps off the page, and his 76 homers are an astounding number given the position he plays. While the Gold Glove may be more reflective of his offensive prowess, it's hard to argue Brian Dozier as anything but the best second basemen not named Jose Altuve at the current juncture.

That being said, both Dozier and the Twins aren't too concerned with what has taken place. Although it's previous production that Brian will tie his argument for future dollars to, it's the projections going forward that will open the wallets of any would be suitors. Now on the wrong side of 30 years old, Dozier's case is somewhat of an anomaly. He's been a beacon of health throughout his time in the big leagues, and as a senior sign, compiled only 365 games in the minors. While he's aging, there's an argument to be made that there could be a decent amount of tread left on the tires.

Trying to glean insight from ZiPS as well Marcell projection systems, Dozier has some 2018 numbers to pick at. ZiPS sees a .257/.341/.482 slash with 31 homers, while Marcell comes in with a .259/.337/.494 slash and also 31 homers. Both the OPS numbers fall below the .856 mark posted in 2017, but remain above the .800 level that would put him in star company. After following up the 42 Home run output with a tally of 34 a year ago, the projection systems agreeing on 31 would be almost exactly in line with his four-year average.

What I think we can expect from Brian Dozier in 2018 is something along the lines of what he's established as norms. The power should continue to be there, even despite an expected level of regression a season ago. Reaching the 30 plateau should again be more than doable, and doing so with an .800+ OPS is hardly a longshot. Among the biggest areas of growth in recent seasons for Dozier has been his ability to get on base. Although he strikes out too much for a leadoff hitter, the ability to draw walks has grown, and his .359 OBP of 2017 was a shining bright spot. Dropping down to something like a .345 OBP wouldn't be unexpected, but it would hardly be a significant detractor either.

It's understandably hard to believe in immeasurable principles, but should Dozier enter the season in a "contract year," then I think we'd be in for a slight uptick across the board. Regardless, any level of regression should be muted as it appears the late-bloomer is in the heart of his prime. A long term deal may not benefit the signing team well as an elder free agent can crash fast, but Minnesota has to feel good about getting Dozier's best for as long as they have.

If we've learned anything over the past two or three seasons with Dozier, it's not to bet against him. While he's transformed himself into a pull hitter while generating significant power, he's also adapted to opposing pitchers. Up and in balls still end up over the fence, but he's been able to do far more than the approach had initially suggested may be possible. An overview of the 2018 Twins lineup should again be described as a run producer, but there's little mystery to the fact that Brian Dozier will be in the heart of that reality.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • MN_ExPat likes this

If I were the Starting Pitcher facing Brian Dozier on Opening Day, I'm throwing him a first pitch slider off the plate. Followed by 2 change ups and another slider. He will get a fastball down for pitches 5 and 6 if necessary. I'm not letting him put the Twins up 1-0.
    • MN_ExPat likes this