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Article: Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Second Base

brian dozier nick gordon jorge polanco travis blankerhorn andrew bechtold
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 10:41 PM

At first base for the Twins, a legacy might be coming to an end. Maybe not.

A few dozen feet to the left, another legacy's looming closure feels more fated.

Brian Dozier has already carved out distinction as one of the greatest second basemen in franchise history, and the best may well be yet to come, but his tenure in Minnesota is fleeting.Projected Starter: Brian Dozier
Likely Backup: Ehire Adrianza

Depth: Eduardo Escobar, Nick Gordon, Gregorio Petit
Prospects: Gordon, Travis Blankenhorn, Yunior Severino

THE GOOD

It's one of the most obnoxious clichés in sports, but in this case it's too accurate not to acknowledge: Dozier has made a habit out of proving doubters wrong.

He wasn't in great demand as a draft prospect out of the University of Southern Mississippi back in 2009, slipping to the eighth round despite batting .355 during a four-year collegiate career.

In the Twins system, Dozier never graced the top end of prospect lists like the players who now follow him in the lineup. When drafted he was mostly viewed as a future utility player – a tweener in the middle infield without enough power to project as an impact hitter – and his early years in the minors followed suit.

But Dozier just kept on improving. He broke out with a monster year at Double-A, reached the big leagues by age 25, and slowly blossomed into a premier power hitter in the game.

His 2016 season seemed flukish, absurd, unrepeatable. Forty-two home runs? From a guy who previously hit 32 in eight years of college and minor-league ball combined??

How silly to doubt him. He brought it again in 2017, with arguably an even better overall performance.

Dozier is the embodiment of a self-made star, and the definition of a leader by example. His production last year solidifies his status as a 5-WAR player, placing him comfortably in the top 15 percent of all qualified MLBers.

Turning 31 in May, he's still in his physical prime. And beyond his natural competitive drive, Dozier has added incentive this year: the highest personal stakes of his life. For all his accomplishment, his career earnings amount to a relative pittance in the spectrum of Major League Baseball's upper echelon.

Dozier is not only trying to lead an improving young team back to the playoffs this year; he's also showcasing himself for the league in hopes of earning a nine-digit paycheck he most certainly deserves, at a time where those are getting awfully hard to come by.

If Dozier should stumble for some reason this year, we'll know for certain it wasn't due to a lack of effort, focus, or urgency.

THE BAD

Of course, the huge buzzkill of this whole deal is that Dozier's days in Minnesota appear to be numbered. He obviously has gotten the hint, and expressed his disappointment candidly earlier this week: "It's pretty much black and white from what I've been hearing, which is upsetting, but you turn the page and play to win."

Dozier's got a spectacular record of durability. Were he to uncharacteristically miss time, Ehire Adrianza or Eduardo Escobar would figure to primarily fill in early on. Potentially Nick Gordon could emerge as an option somewhere along the way.

Gordon's presence, in part, has contributed to the front office holding off on extension negotiations with Dozier. The 22-year-old ranks as Twins Daily's No. 3 prospect and will probably be playing short in Rochester by midsummer, if not from the outset. The tentative plan right now has him lining up with Jorge Polanco in the 2019 middle infield – assignments TBD. Neither has the makings of a stellar MLB shortstop and both currently are more ideally suited for second.

Here's the rub: Polanco and Gordon both are more likely than Dozier to be manning second base beyond 2018, and neither is at all likely to ever reach Dozier's current level of top-tier production.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The short-term outlook at second base is blindingly bright. Dozier is a legit star player with more experience and motivation than ever before. Every sign points to another year as one of MLB's more impactful assets.

After that, all bets are off. Gordon and Polanco seem almost equally likely to land at second as semi-permanent solutions. Travis Blankenhorn and Yunior Severino lurk in the lower levels.

This will very likely be the last year we're able to watch Dozier dig in to lead off each game for the club that drafted him nearly a decade ago. Enjoy it while you can, Twins fans. But throughout the summer, keep an eye on movement behind him on the depth chart and in the system, because it may foretell the future of second base for the franchise.



~~~

Catch up on the rest of the series:

Twins Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins Position Analysis: First Base

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#2 twinstalker

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 12:52 AM

These local media worry about Dozier not being extended is naive at best. Falvine knows (know?) there is zero reason to commit long-term to a guy who next year will be playing his age 32 season. If they believe he can do it again,they'll offer the 18 or 19 mil for 2019. If he turns it down, so be it. I don't know for sure that he will.

 

The media in this town care more about keeping a guy, any guy, who's been here than they do building the franchise the way it should be built, which I personally believe they have no idea about.

 

Dozier probably has three more good seasons at most. We've got him for one, possibly two. I think the way you deal with someone like that is to offer at most two years after this and let him walk if he doesn't sign.

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#3 SarasotaBill

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 05:33 AM

Dozier went to Southern Mississippi.

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#4 Respy

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 06:35 AM

I think Dozier's future status with the Twins will largely come down to the progression and health this year of Polanco, Gordon, and Royce Lewis.If all three are struggling, I'd expect the Twins to extend Dozier a 1-2 year offer, but not this early.If 2-3 of those players are being very successful, expect the Twins to extend Dozier only a qualifying offer.I assume they'd be just fine if Dozier accepted the qualifying offer (which might become more common after this offseason).

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#5 sloopjont

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 07:40 AM

Well written and fair--and sad.Look what it takes to draft and develop a player like Dozier.Look at all his contributions and pay him fairly.Anyone else they can get to man 2B the next few years will fall short of his production.Also, to those expecting a quick decline to his production because he is 31, he is likely to again prove the doubters wrong.

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#6 rdehring

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:00 AM

As a Dozier fan long before most, I expect we are going to see the beginning of his decline soon.Maybe not this year, but likely next or the year after.So it doesn't make sense for the Twins to get into a big long-term contract.Offer him a qualifying offer.If odd things happen and he accepts, wonderful.If not, take the draft pick and move on with one of several internal prospects.For his sake, hopefully someone comes along with a four year +$75mm offer.

 

There is one other prospect I would add to that list, Luis Arraez.

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#7 slash129

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:35 AM

All the names dropped (other than Dozier)from the top of this article through the comment above mine won't end up combining for Twins career WAR equal to Dozier's.

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#8 gunnarthor

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:38 AM

I think with the collusion by owners this offseason that Dozier is more likely to accept a qualifying offer next offseason than go through free agency.

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#9 slash129

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:41 AM

 

Dozier probably has three more good seasons at most. We've got him for one, possibly two. I think the way you deal with someone like that is to offer at most two years after this and let him walk if he doesn't sign.

 

There are many who pretend to despise and belittle that which is beyond their reach.

 

- Aesop

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#10 mikelink45

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 08:46 AM

This was a good recap, but without Royce Lewis in the conversation it misses a key component of the plan.Polanco and Gordon better shine because I see Royce rising quickly and he has the potential to reach the WAR numbers of Dozier.The real question is between Polanco and Gordon - which do we really expect to stick and shine? There are more changes ahead.

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#11 Nick Nelson

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:34 AM

 

The media in this town care more about keeping a guy, any guy, who's been here than they do building the franchise the way it should be built, which I personally believe they have no idea about.

Can you give me an example of "the media" taking this kind of stance? I haven't seen it. Most people -- even Dozier fans -- seem to understand the validity of the team's thinking from what I've seen.

 

 

Dozier went to Southern Mississippi.

Whoops, fixed. Thank you!

 

 

I think with the collusion by owners this offseason that Dozier is more likely to accept a qualifying offer next offseason than go through free agency.

Unless he has a big setback this year, Dozier is going to get a contract approaching 100M. I have no doubt. He'll be viewed as much more of a Hosmer type than a Moustakas type.

 

 

This was a good recap, but without Royce Lewis in the conversation it misses a key component of the plan. 

IMO Lewis will end up at either SS or CF. I don't see second base in his future. Could be wrong. 

 


#12 bean5302

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:52 AM

Sano isn't the 3rd baseman of the future unless something dramatic happens.

Escobar isn't the 3rd baseman of the future. Love him, but not at 3rd with his bat.

Gordon at SS is superior to Polanco at SS.

Polanco has some potential to replace a lot of Dozier's bat and add superior defense at 2B

There isn't anybody in MiLB who is an obvious solution for 3rd base n the next year or two.

Dozier's going to decline. He keeps defying all logic, but for the next few years, I could see him compensating for a bit of a weaker arm with superior range at 3rd base and his bat would play there.

Mauer probably isn't the solution at 3rd. His cannon arm is wasted at 1B, but his speed is on the decline and asking him to just learn a completely new, and this time more difficult, position seems like a tall order.

 

Maybe the Twins are just in the position where there are too many pieces moving to make a big commitment to Dozier.

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#13 rdehring

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:54 AM

 

I think with the collusion by owners this offseason that Dozier is more likely to accept a qualifying offer next offseason than go through free agency.

What proof do you have that there is collusion?

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#14 Dave The Dastardly

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:58 AM

I think what is lost in the TD discussion is that Dozier's future salary is a relationship strictly between the front office and Dozier and oftentimes the discussion doesn't necessarily take into consideration the relationship between Dozier and Twins fans. Even though the latter relationship impacts the first.

 

Twins fans, in general, like and respect Dozier both on and off the field. Because of that they'll pay (buy tickets, jerseys, etc) to watch him play. If the Twins let him walk and replace him with a virtual unknown that can't equal Dozier's production on or off the field, it's going to cost the organization some ticket sales. It's also going to cost the team some wins. Which is also going to negatively impact the organization's revenue through more lost ticket sales (the well-worn bandwagon metaphor).

 

I'm sure our analytics-oriented FO has a formula that tells them exactly what the trade-off in cost/revenue is between letting Dozier walk and offering him a deal. If so, the team's offer to Dozier, if they make one, and I think they will just to placate Dozier's fans, will be at that inflection point.

 

The problem is recent baseball player salaries often have had little relationship to "value". To be honest, from an economic sense, I believe player salaries have been grossly inflated over the past few years. And that's probably why we're seeing the current lack of activity in the free agent market. Players have been getting more than their "worth" for the last few years and naturally hope to continue doing so and that's what has been distorting the market. What we're seeing now is an adjustment to player salaries closer to real value as determined by the analytics movement.

 

Unfortunately for Dozier, he's going to be caught in the downside adjustment to the market. The Twins will offer him less than he believes he's worth as compared to other similar players already under inflated contracts and therefore it will be difficult for him to accept the Twins' offer. He'll walk out of pride and the Twins will take a public relations whipping for letting him walk if they don't at least make him an offer.

 

Jeez! That's a lot more than I set out to say. Must be that extra cup of coffee I had this morning. Or maybe it's cabin fever. Let's get this season started before I really go nuts!

 

 

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#15 jkcarew

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:59 AM

 

All the names dropped (other than Dozier)from the top of this article through the comment above mine won't end up combining for Twins career WAR equal to Dozier's.

Kind of irrelevant, even if true, right?It's more about a reasonable expectation of WAR (or whatever) from 2019 - 2022, among other factors like roster construction.

 

Look, I love Dozier.And I'd guess his career tail...at least offensively...won't be particularly steep.But, it seems reasonable to me for the Twins to want to see how 2018 plays out before they decide/commit on Dozier.Equally reasonable, IMO, for Dozier to decide to commit to going through the FA process.We'll see what happens.

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#16 bean5302

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 10:08 AM

There is no collusion. You have a bunch of agents thirsty for their next paycheck, but not a great deal of talent to sell. Agents have become accustomed to mega deals for the top free agents, but this year's talent pool was dry. Agents were still selling mediocre JAG players as if they were cornerstones for playoff teams for the next 5 years.

 

Case in point. Mike Moustakas. A mediocre player. Solid defender, but with only one really great year in 2015. He's a 2 WAR player. Estimates ranged up to $100M for him, and Boras wanted 6-7 years and up to $125M if I remember.

 

The guys this year... they're just not very good and they're asking for elite money because even though they're not that great, they're the best available.

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#17 Mike Sixel

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 10:20 AM

On topic....

Dozier is really good. I am sure the dodgers regret not offering more for him. He is likely good this year, but age will catch up to him at some point. I would guess he has two good years left after this one, then tails off. I would be good with a two year deal, anything beyond that seems to be too much, given the context of the whole team, and Polanco, Gordon, and Lewis, not to mention others. If Gordon is really good in AAA,I would take the chance of letting Dozier go, if they plan to spend the money on a really good player. But if they don't think they can get such a player, I probably try hard to bring him back.

I've been thinking about this more, if Gordon plus others brings back an elite player, I am more inclined to do that than I thought. But that will take him being great in AAA, at which point you have to decide if he's a three WAR player over time....

All in all, good problems to have.
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I remain hopeful on Buxton and Sano.....but I'd not bet the franchise on them.


#18 Vanimal46

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 10:37 AM

 

Well written and fair--and sad.Look what it takes to draft and develop a player like Dozier.Look at all his contributions and pay him fairly.Anyone else they can get to man 2B the next few years will fall short of his production.Also, to those expecting a quick decline to his production because he is 31, he is likely to again prove the doubters wrong.

 

Agree with all of this. I also hope he proves people wrong by signing a deal with the Twins and playing at a very high level. 

It's not impossible to play at a high level as a 2B in your mid-30's.... Chase Utley, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, and Robinson Cano are all doing it right now. 

 

I think some are really underestimating the gap in production between Dozier and the replacement (most likely Gordon). Over the past four years, Dozier has posted a 120 OPS+ while averaging 32 homers, 72 walks and 17 steals per season while playing above average defense.

 

Keeping Dozier is something a contending team would and should do. If we believe the window is open now for the Twins, why would they let him walk?

I'm of the belief they should keep Dozier, and trade Gordon+ at the deadline for an impact SP. 

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#19 Oxtung

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 11:11 AM

 

I think what is lost in the TD discussion is that Dozier's future salary is a relationship strictly between the front office and Dozier and oftentimes the discussion doesn't necessarily take into consideration the relationship between Dozier and Twins fans. Even though the latter relationship impacts the first.

 

Twins fans, in general, like and respect Dozier both on and off the field. Because of that they'll pay (buy tickets, jerseys, etc) to watch him play. If the Twins let him walk and replace him with a virtual unknown that can't equal Dozier's production on or off the field, it's going to cost the organization some ticket sales. It's also going to cost the team some wins. Which is also going to negatively impact the organization's revenue through more lost ticket sales (the well-worn bandwagon metaphor).

 

I'm sure our analytics-oriented FO has a formula that tells them exactly what the trade-off in cost/revenue is between letting Dozier walk and offering him a deal. If so, the team's offer to Dozier, if they make one, and I think they will just to placate Dozier's fans, will be at that inflection point.

 

The problem is recent baseball player salaries often have had little relationship to "value". To be honest, from an economic sense, I believe player salaries have been grossly inflated over the past few years. And that's probably why we're seeing the current lack of activity in the free agent market. Players have been getting more than their "worth" for the last few years and naturally hope to continue doing so and that's what has been distorting the market. What we're seeing now is an adjustment to player salaries closer to real value as determined by the analytics movement.

 

Unfortunately for Dozier, he's going to be caught in the downside adjustment to the market. The Twins will offer him less than he believes he's worth as compared to other similar players already under inflated contracts and therefore it will be difficult for him to accept the Twins' offer. He'll walk out of pride and the Twins will take a public relations whipping for letting him walk if they don't at least make him an offer.

 

Jeez! That's a lot more than I set out to say. Must be that extra cup of coffee I had this morning. Or maybe it's cabin fever. Let's get this season started before I really go nuts!

While Dozier probably does have some value and the Twins will probably lose some fans if they lose Dozier, those loses are dwarfed by the affect the Twins win-loss record has on team revenue. The difference is so great that the Twins won't even consider Dozier's direct effect on attendance/merchandise sales. Instead they will move forward with those players that will help the Twins win the most games. In the end it's all about the "W". Just win baby! Just win!


#20 bobs

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 11:13 AM

I REALLY like Brian Dozier...for his hitting, fielding and, maybe most important, his leadership.I REALLY think if the Twins are serious about trying to advance deeper into the playoffs in 2018, 2019 and 2020, they should sign Dozier to an extension.All that said, I don't think it happens.It saddens me to say that I think the 2019 keystone combo is Gordon and Polanco.I should be excited b/c they are both young players, but I just feel like Dozier deserves to get paid and he deserves to stay and play on good teams in Minnesota.

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