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Opening Presents Too Early

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Brian Dozier turns 25 next Tuesday.

Thatís not young for a prospect. This spring he barely made the cut of Baseball Americaís top 10 Twins prospects. Above him on that list were Chris Parmelee (who is hitting .203), Liam Hendriks (who is being demoted to AAA-Rochester) and Joe Benson (who was demoted yesterday to AA-New Britain yesterday). He has never hit even double-digits home runs in his minor league career. Prior to this year, he was never a fulltime shortstop in the minors.

Anticipation, especially prolonged anticipation, can really skew expectations. Dozier has been talked about since the middle of last year by manager Ron Gardenhire. At the time, Gardenhire was also desperate for anything resembling a competent middle infielder. If youíre especially optimistic about Dozierís debut this week, that prolonged anticipation is likely the cause, more so than any promise heís shown in the minor leagues. Along with his other challenges, he will likely be dealing with inflated expectations.

But there may be a bigger challenge. Dozier is likely being rushed. After spending three years navigating through rookie ball, A-ball and AA-ball, heís had all of a month at AAA. He hasnít posted particularly impressive numbers at that level: .276 average, one home run and two stolen bases, though heís shown good control of the strike zone. And itís not like heís caught fire recently Ė heís hit about .200 over the last several weeks after a hot start.

Finally, promoting Dozier now is an odd move financially. Major League clubs will often wait until the first couple of weeks in June to promote a prospect so he doesnít reach arbitration a year early as a ďSuper 2Ē. What does that mean? The short answer is that if Dozier succeeds as a starting shortstop, the Twins will need to pay him a million dollars extra or more per year from 2015 through 2018, just so they could call him up a few weeks early this year.

So why now?

Initially, the answer seems obvious: in a lost season, why not play the youngsters? But if thatís the philosophy, then why is Liam Hendriks being sent back to Rochester? Why canít Trevor Plouffe find his way into the lineup? And why not give Dozier another four weeks in Rochester to regain his stroke and lower his future compensation?

Instead, the answer seems to be the opposite. Dozier is coming up because things are getting desperate. Heís a lottery ticket, or maybe a more apt analogy would be that heís a Christmas present that the manager (and maybe the organization) is anxious to open.

Thatís fun, but itís worth noting just how often that has backfired on the Twins in the last year. The fast-rising Hendriks made all of nine pitching starts in AAA, didnít have much success and then struggled in the majors until he was demoted again. Ben Revere spent just a few weeks in AAA where he had trouble getting on base, did the same in extended time in the majors, and is back in Rochester. Chris Parmelee, after a strong September and spring training, skipped Rochester entirely and now has 20 strikeouts and four walks.

One might think that with that recent track record, an organization might be a little more conservative in their callups. Instead, the Twins are rushing a mid-level prospect to the majors to help save the season. I hope they (and Dozier) enjoy the moment. But it would sure be nice if this present wasnít returned.
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