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Can Brian Dozier Make the Opening Day Roster?

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Manager Ron Gardenhire wanted him up in the big leagues last summer. Teammates praise his leadership as well as his ability to do anything and everything needed with the bat. Pitchers love when he is playing shortstop behind them. How can Brian Dozier make the Twins Opening Day Roster?

There are many things going against Dozier this spring, at least in terms of making the opening day roster. The biggest thing he has going for him is his play and his personality.

Letís start with the reasons that he will not make the Opening Day Roster:

  • Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla Ė The Twins brought in Jamey Carroll and paid him enough that he will get a starting job. Heís earned that by playing in 140+ games the last two years, being solid defensively and getting on base at a very good clip. The Twins are committed to giving Alexi Casilla another shot as a starter at second base. Even if the leash on Casilla isnít real long, he will get a shot to start.
  • Brian Dozier is a real prospect Ė In other words, they are not going to keep him on the big league roster if he isnít going to play nearly every day. It would be best for Dozierís development to go to Rochester and play every day. Dozier will not come up as a utility player yet.
  • 40 man roster Ė Dozier is not on it. Sure, it would be easy to add him to the 40 man roster, especially with Joel Zumayaís roster spot available when he is put on the 60 Day Disabled List. But the Twins may use that to add a reliever. Dozier doesnít need to be added to the 40 man roster, so unless he proves himself in a short period of time to be vastly better than the other options, there is little reason to add him now.
  • Free Agency Ė Itís weird to look six or seven years in advance, especially in baseball where year-to-year is often not a guarantee. However, if the Twins wait to add Dozier to the 40 man roster until after about April 20th, it would be an extra season before he could become a free agent. Is having him up two or three weeks earlier worth losing a full season of his best years?
  • Hasnít spent a day in AAA Ė This isnít a complete deal-breaker, but it is unusual for players to be promoted directly from AA without spending time in AAA. Itís happened. The Twins did that with Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee last year in September and Ben Revere the September before that. In each of those cases, it was simply for an opportunity to see the players, and in Revereís case, his speed could be used in late innings as a pinch runner during a pennant race. Brad Radke came up from AA. Others have, including Joe Mauer.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka Ė What will the Twins do (or be able to do) with Nishioka and his contract? Would they send him to Rochester? They may be willing to keep him up as a utility player an not play him very much.

Iím sure you can add other reasons for why the Twins would choose not to put Brian Dozier on their opening day roster. However, there are some reasons that it should not be considered completely out of the realm of possibility for Dozier to leave camp with the Twins.

  • Offense Ė After putting up fairly pedestrian numbers in 2010 at Beloit and Ft. Myers, Dozier had an incredible 2011 season in which he was named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. In 49 games in Ft. Myers and 78 games in New Britain, he combined to hit .320/399/.491 with 33 doubles, 12 triples, nine home runs and 56 RBI. He stole 24 bases. He had ten sacrifice bunts.
  • Defense Ė Although scouts tend to be mixed on whether or not he can be an everyday shortstop or a second baseman or a utility infielder, he makes the routine plays. Thatís all that the Twins brass asks a player to do. He credited his Arizona Fall League manager Joe McEwing with helping him increase his range with just a couple of quick alterations.
  • Versatility Ė He can play shortstop and second base, so if Carroll or Casilla were to be hurt, he could fill in for either of them. Carroll is also versatile, so if the Twins feel, at some point, that Alexi Casilla needs to move back to the bench, Carroll could move to second and Dozier could play shortstop.
  • Leadership Ė it isnít a measurable quality, but teammates at each level talk about his ability to lead. He isnít a loudmouth, but he leads by example and isnít afraid to take charge on the field. Obviously we know that is important to Ron Gardenhire.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka - Because the Twins clearly are not big supporters of Nishioka at this point, it is possible that they would release the middle infielder, give Dozier a starting gig and move Carroll or Casilla to a bench role.

The odds are stacked against Brian Dozier, who went 2-3 with a triple yesterday in exhibition play, to make the Twins Opening Day roster. However, the odds are definitely in favor of Brian Dozier being promoted to the Twins at some point in 2012. The odds are also very good that once he is called up, he will remain a starter with the Twins for several seasons.

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