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Twins Fan From Afar

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Brian Dozier, Player Development and the Future

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This is also posted at my blog, http://twinsfanfromafar.blogspot.com

Brian Dozier, Twins' shortstop of the future?

I have advocated in the past my belief that the best place for Tsuyoshi Nishioka to start 2012 would be AA New Britain or AAA Rochester. Unlike the front office, I'm not willing to give him a complete mulligan for 2011. I recognize that the broken leg derailed his season, but even prior to that injury -- and also when he came back supposedly healthy -- he was clearly overmatched. It's great that he worked on strength and conditioning in the offseason, but I'm not sure that those things, alone, make him better for the Twins in 2012.

From what I have read, the Twins will use Jamey Carroll as the everyday, starting shortstop (until he is eligible to begin collecting Social Security next season), and all signs point to Alexi Casilla getting the nod at second. The Twins have two more years left on Nishioka's contract, and roughly $6 million; that contract is untradeable right now. On the other hand, Twins shortstop prospect Brian Dozier had a great season at AA in 2011, and also performed very well in the Arizona Fall League. So we have one middle infield prospect, seemingly on the way up, and one major league middle infield player that, in my mind, needs to occupy a spot on some roster, somewhere, for the next two years before he is out of this organization.

Like the Twins' front office, I'm thinking toward the future. I'm not at all confident that we're looking at a playoff team here, so I think it's important to make moves that, although not fantastic or sexy in the short-term, don't handcuff the team in the long-term. By 2014 or 2015, there could be a good new wave of players, including Miguel Sano and Kyle Gibson, and the starting 9 probably will look very, very different.

With that being said, perhaps the best (or least worst) thing to do in 2012 is to have Nishioka be a bench player for the Twins, and give Dozier the starting SS job at Rochester for a full season -- or at least until he demonstrates that he's seen enough of AAA to be promoted. Having both Nishioka and Dozier on the same Rochester team simply doesn't make sense, especially if Dozier is the shortstop of the future for the Twins. I suppose the other option is to send Nishioka to New Britain, but based on Terry Ryan's comments that the team "wouldn't want to see it play out that way," with respect to sending Nishioka to Rochester, I have a feeling that such a New Britain assignment might not even be on the table. At the very least, it's definitely something to think about. I think the Twins' #1 priority with respect to this issue is setting themselves up to have a legitimate shortstop of the future, something they haven't had for a long time.

I'd be happy to hear your comments and ideas -- I'm not at all an expert on the Twins' minor league system, and I know that some of you will have more insight.


  1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    I guess I don't see the problem with both Dozier and Nishioka at Rochester in the middle infield, both spending some time at each position. We know that Nishioka can play shortstop (even if not very well) but I still question his ability to be a second basemen, so Rochester would seem to be a good idea to play every day somewhere and to become an actual backup middle infielder at worst. Being only a backup shortstop is a waste of a Twins roster spot, in my view. And Dozier would benefit from playing both positions as well. Florimon is the third option there and that is fine. There have been some people proposing Dozier start at New Britain, but that seems a bit excessive! I don't understand why the Twins stunt some of their prospects. That said, it would be interesting to see a New Britain lineup in April and a bit of May (perhaps) of: Aaron Hicks, Chris Herrmann, Brian Dozier, Angel Morales, and Evan Bigley . . . .
  2. minn55441's Avatar
    I agree with most of your points but you didn't include any discussion about Levi Michael and how his progression through the minors will also play into these decisions. Michael was our number one pick and has yet to play a single game for us due to injuries. I have heard that he will probably get his start in either Beloit or for the Miracle, either way I would expect him to move quickly to the same level as Dozier. For me the best case scenario would include two quality players fighting for one major league roster spot.

    I had high hopes for Nishi last year but after watching him for a year, I have no confidence in him at all. I wasn't just the physical limitations but even more importantly the mental errors that he made. I could see multiply mistakes every game from being in the wrong spot for a cut off throw from the outfield to minor things like indecision with where to throw the ball. He needs time in the minors, but like you I don't want to see him taking playing time away from legitimate prospects like dozier and Michael.

  3. Twins Fan From Afar's Avatar
    Thanks for the comments, shanewahl and minn55441. Shane, I guess my larger point is that I don't want Nishioka to be clogging up a position at AAA if we have a legitimate prospect that could, or should, be playing there. Maybe you're right that he's better suited for AAA second base? I, too, would like to see Dozier start at AAA this year. Dozier at 2B and Florimon at SS?

    Minn55441, I'm not sure about Levi Michael yet. Don't get me wrong, I'm confident that he's going to be a good prospect, but even if he is fast-tracked, by Twins standards, we're still talking about MLB arrival no earlier than 2015 (3 full seasons in the minors) -- and that assumes success at every level of the minor leagues, and a clean bill of health (the latter of which is not a given, considering how banged up he was last season). It would be great, though, if he could vault to the top of our prospect rankings with a strong first season.
  4. minn55441's Avatar
    The fact that Terry Ryan went out and signed Carroll, instead of a more long term solution to our SS problem is very telling. There were options on the free agent market this winter. We could have picked up a 32 year old Barmes, but instead we took a 38 year old player for less money. I don't think it was Terry trying to fill the spot on the cheap, but instead he sees the future arriving within two years. Dozier is 24 or 25 and I think Michael is around 21. Levi Michael was a 3 year starter on a good college baseball team. He was widely viewed as far and away the best SS in college baseball entering his junior year. Although he played almost every game his Junior year, he was happened by injuries that did affect his performance. Even with the lingering injuries he performed well and lead his team to the college world series. I will be really surprised if he isn't at New Britian next year.

    From double A is it s short trip to the Twins as both Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee found out last September. Jamey Carroll is definately a stop gap until Dozier and Michael progress. I think Dozier gets the first chance. Hopefully he gets a full season in Rochester and then a September call up. I would love to see Dozier fight for the starting SS spot with Carroll in 2013 and for 2014, hopefully that competition would become one between Dozier and Michael. I love the fact that we take flyers on these high school kids, but when we draft 3 and 4 year college players they should be able to move through the system at a much quicker pace.
  5. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
    Good points. This is why I liked the Jamey Carroll signing whereas so many people thought the Twins were just being cheap. Although Carroll is entering the twilight of his career, he will be a huge upgrade over what we got offensively and defenisively from the shortstop position last year. He will provide a veteran presence and will help the team while holding down the position until one of these two prospects is ready. Hopefully, Dozier and Michael will push each other in the minors and maybe sooner rather than later we will have the problem of having two major league ready shortstop prospects. It would be so nice to finally have that position solidified for a while.
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