A happy employee is always a good thing and the employee wanting to continue to stay where he enjoys working is refreshing for a team like the Twins whose teams have not exactly been in the hunt in recent seasons. So it is good that Brian Dozier is happy and having a good time. Yet, despite his exciting and unexpected first full season, there is no incentive for the Twins club to get too far ahead of itself despite Dozier’s wish for a extended contract.
Whether you believe Fangraphs.com or Baseball-reference.com’s valuation systems–which differ on Dozier’s value in 2013 by a win–Dozier did have a very good year. Depending on the site, Dozier was a 2.8 or a 3.8 WAR player worth either $14 or $19 million. Based on a season like that, it might be tempting to think that locking him up long-term would be a good idea.
But we are not talking Trout here. These are the cheap seasons teams count on long before a player becomes even arbitration eligible and the Twins will be just fine in paying $550,000 for that kind of value. And who could blame them? That is the system in place: Maximize value in the controllable years and then try not to overpay when the player gets the leverage.
Besides, no one saw this coming from Brian Dozier. Yeah, he had a .779 career OPS in the minors, so .726 in 2013 should not be that shocking. The average was stunted from his minor league days at .244, but the 18 homers were a big surprise. He was a good, all-around solid player at a skill position. He ran the bases well, fielded surprisingly well for moving from his natural position of shortstop to second base. And he hit for pop. What’s not to like?
And as good as it was, his season still feels a bit unlucky. His batting average on balls in play was only .278, far below the league average despite having a decent 20.8% line drive percentage. Dozier’s BABIP on line drives was .604, well below the league average of .674. He also pops up to the infield more than you would like to see happen.
If you normalize Dozier’s BABIP for 2013, he would have hit .262 instead of .246 and his on-base percentage would be .325 instead of the .312 that it was.
Despite those observations, the projection systems are low on Brian Dozier. Only one predict him to hit above .250. Only one predict an OBP as high as 2013 and only two expect his slugging percentage to stay above .400. I expect Dozier to beat those numbers and to repeat or better his value in 2014.
Part of the reason is that I see the growth in his game. In his 81 games in 2012, Dozier swung at 33% of pitches thrown to him out of the strike zone. That same statistic was 23.1% last season. That is quite an improvement. And while 10 of his 18 homers were on the road, he still had a slugging percentage over .400 at home, which is pretty impressive for a second baseman considering his home park.
Despite my optimism for Dozier in 2014, I still do not think the Twins have any compelling reason to even talk about an extension at this point. By the time Dozier gets any leverage, he will be pushing 30-years-old and we’ll see how he is doing then. The system is set up for the teams to get a great rate on value in a player’s controllable years so even if Brian Dozier has enough wished to fill the sea with fishes, he should continue to build his case for his leverage years.