When second baseman Brian Dozier lit up High-A and Double-A with a .320/.399/.491 slash line and 24 stolen bases in 2011, he started to rise up the Minnesota Twins’ organizational depth chart. Baseball America ranked him as the Twins’ 10th-best prospect coming into the 2012 season, and beginning the year in Triple-A, he was largely considered Plan B at the shortstop position. Unfortunately, he was unable to make anything but a negative impact at the big-league level in 2012, only compiling a .265 wOBA in 340 plate appearances and providing below-average defense at short.
This season, however, the Twins transitioned Dozier to second base and have essentially handed him the everyday role at the position. His overall numbers haven’t improved much, but he’s enjoying a torrid stretch at the plate. In fact, he’s performing so well that some fantasy owners have decided to jump on the bandwagon. His ownership is up to 20% in ESPN leagues.
Owners occasionally have to capitalize on hot streaks, and Dozier is certainly in the midst of one right now. Coming into Sunday’s games, he had been the best offensive second baseman in the league over the last 30 calendar days, posting a .411 wOBA — which is 14-points clear of second-best Howie Kendrick. No second baseman had hit more home runs (6) in the last 30 days, nor compiled a better ISO (.273). He’s simply been stinging the ball in recent weeks.
Of course, expecting a player to perform at such a high level — especially when it so dramatically outpaces his career norm — is foolish. There are some things to like about Dozier’s abilities at the plate this year, though, despite only hitting .232/.303/.382 on the season.
The most significant improvement for the 26-year-old second baseman has been refining his approach. He swung often and chased many bad pitches last year. This season, he’s swinging at fewer pitches overall and making better contact. He’s essentially improved in every plate discipline metric featured on the site.
One would think these improvements in approach would lead to better results. His seasonal numbers haven’t illustrated any different results, but his recent torrid stretch at the plate suggests they could finally be paying off. Again, this is not to suggest Dozier is suddenly one of the best second-base options in the league. He could, however, be improving as a player, and his potential for 15-20 steals makes any kind of step forward at the plate worth watching.
For Dozier to be worth owning in most leagues, either his batting average or his power need to markedly increase. In recent weeks, he’s enjoyed a power binge, but his historical numbers suggest fantasy owners shouldn’t expect sustained improvement in this category. Even in the minor leagues, the former eighth-round pick out of the University of Southern Mississippi has never totaled more than nine home runs. He’s already at seven this year so it seems likely he will eclipse his previous career-high, but that doesn’t appear to be anything more than a fluke.
His batting average, though, may have a chance to increase throughout the remainder of the season. He generally puts the ball in play and only has a career 1.07 GB/FB ratio, but his BABIP has stayed remarkably low. Perhaps that will begin to rise if his improved approach at the plate continues. Granted, that suggestion feels rather hollow and sounds more like general optimism, but it’s something to watch. If his BABIP increases and he can sustain a more-respectable batting average, his stolen base potential makes him an option in deeper leagues.
Right now, Brian Dozier doesn’t appear to be anything more than a desperation play for owners who are simply trying to ride a hot streak. He doesn’t hit for enough average or enough power to justify owning for the remainder of the season, at this point, and playing in a middling offense won’t do much for his run/RBI numbers. Still, it sincerely appears that Dozier has better plate discipline this year. If that can translate into sustained improvement somewhere in his numerical production, he’s worth owning in deeper leagues.
At the very least, this hot streak has grabbed my attention. I’m not close to slapping a “buy” tag on him, but he has certainly found himself on my watch list. He should be on yours, as well, in case some part of this hot streak proves somewhat sustainable.
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