After sending Tsuyoshi Nishioka to Rochester, many fans began to think that Brian Dozier may have done enough this spring to entice the powers that be to include him on the major league roster. On Tuesday, manager Ron Gardenhire squelched that notion.
According to the Star Tribune’s Joe Christensen’s tweet
which paraphrased Gardenhire’s comments on the situation, the Twins will not be bringing Dozier northward but rather sending him to Rochester to start the season. The Twins’ manager added that the team would not hesitate to summon Dozier if anything should happen to either Jamey Carroll or Alexi Casilla. This would allow for Dozier to be a starter rather than a utility player for the parent club.
Dozier, 24, made offensive progress in 2011 after his promotion to Double-A New Britain. There, he worked with hitting coach Tom Brunansky to develop more power. Said Dozier
of the former Twins’ instructions:
"When I got to Double-A, my swing kind of changed,'' Dozier said. "I started to develop into my swing. I worked with Tom Brunansky and it really took off for me. I developed more power and was driving balls more than I was used to.''
Unfortunately, no video exists of Dozier’s post-Double A swing so we cannot provide a full breakdown of his mechanics. What we can see statistically is that whatever changes that were made, it resulted in much improved power numbers although at the small expense of his on-base percentage and batting average.
While in High-A Fort Myers, Dozier hit a solid .322/.417/.472. Once he was moved to New Britain, he hit a very good .318/.376/.502. While the walk rate dropped (from 12.4% to 8.0%) and the strike out rate grew (from 9.2% to 13.1%) his power output increased substantially (his isolated power swelled from .150 to .184). This might be something that you would expect from working under Brunansky’s tutelage as Bruno himself had a lot of all-or-nothing type swing in him (leading to a low-batting average/on-base percentage and high-slugging combination over his career).
Of course, that is not to say that Dozier is following in Brunansky’s footprints, after all, the change in competition level may have as much to do with the shift in his peripheral numbers as anything. However, the change in the way the ball was coming off his bat may be the biggest outcome of the swing modification. Pre-New Britain, Dozier was knocking the ball into the ground closer to the 50% mark over his career. For a speedy middle infielder, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Since his time in New Britain, that ground ball rate has dropped to below-40%, meaning he is elevating the ball far more often than usual and, hence, the sudden increase in home runs (seven in 351 plate appearances) and extra base hits.
So whatever adjustments were made, so far, it has paid off.
With Brunansky moved to Rochester
to handle the team’s most ready minor league prospects, sending Dozier back to work with the man who helped improve his swing and continue to put the final touches on it is not the worst outcome.