I found myself thinking through recent Twins history today and considered how much volatility there has been in terms of consistency. The Twins have been mostly bad, but when good, the performances have came and went rather quickly. 2020 truly looks like an open window, but it is Brian Dozier that I latched onto as the pinnacle of the roller coaster.
After debuting in 2012 as a shortstop, Dozier quickly flamed out at the position after just 84 games there in his opening salvo. He would relocate to second base and it wasn’t until 2015 that he began to make his mark. He was an 8th round pick, and despite an appearance in both the Home Run Derby (2014) and All-Star Game (2015), he didn’t crack an .800 OPS until 2016.
That was the year, at age-29, that it seemingly all came together. Dozier reinvented himself into a dead-pull hitter that was determined to find the quickest way over the left field fence. His 42 homers that season were the most by any Twins player during a single year not named Harmon Killebrew. He became a slugger despite a smaller stature, and he had risen to be called one of the best second basemen in the game.
It really wasn’t since peak Robinson Cano that baseball had seen someone like Dozier. Brian wasn’t the prototypical uber-prospect, and he certainly wasn’t a five-tool player either. Like Cano, he was an offensive stalwart at an otherwise starved position. Around the league second base had become a destination for poor armed shortstops and was generally a position that you could find someone sitting right at league average.
The 2016 Twins were abysmal in every sense of the word. They won just 59 games and manager Paul Molitor couldn’t get any more out of that squad if he tried. Thanks to Dozier’s dinger derby, there was at least something to tune into on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, much of his accomplishment was lost nationally in the vein of his club being so bad. He’d go one to follow up that performance with 34 dingers in 2017, a year in which Minnesota made the Postseason.
Now having played for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals since, Dozier’s career has already begun a downturn. He did post a .771 OPS last season while playing in 135 games and eventually winning a World Series ring. He had to settle for a minor league deal heading into 2020, but the expectation would be that he’d make the San Diego Padres Opening Day roster.
I’m not sure if we’ll see Brian reach that .800 OPS plateau again or not, but he was a late bloomer that gave us one of the highest peaks in Twins history. The unfortunate reality is that it came during a period of extreme lows and the contributions proved hollow in the grand scheme of things.
Thankfully, Dozier was a fan favorite and will not soon be forgotten in Twins Territory. His career will likely come to an eventually end being a rather nondescript one, but the memories will remain among the fondest to take place at Target Field. It will be interesting to see what we get from him in those nice new Padres threads, and what there is yet to come in the future.
It will not be a career that’s celebrated with substantial accolades when he hangs em up, but it’s incredible to think how good he was, even if it was for such a brief time.