Could Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier Be Even Better In 2015?

Brian Dozier had a solid 2013 for the Minnesota Twins, posting a 2.7 fWAR, but in 2014, he broke out, putting up a 4.6 fWAR, which was fifth among big league second basemen. He also managed a 118 wRC+, a .174 ISO and an impressive 12.6 percent walk rate.

However, projection systems are not a fan of Dozier’s chances to keep up that level of production. Steamer says he will drop to a 100 wRC+ and a 2.8 fWAR, and ZiPS says he will have a 104 wRC+ and a 2.7 fWAR in 2015. Even the Fans system, which is simply a polling of fans and is usually way too optimistic because people are more likely to vote for players on their favorite teams, says he will be regress to a 114 wRC+ and a 3.8 fWAR. When even a poll that consists of mainly fans of  your own team predicts you for regression, that is usually not good, but is that really the path that Dozier is heading down?

The reason why these projection systems do not like Dozier is twofold. First, they expect his walk rate to drop around three percent, with Steamer saying it will be 9.6 percent and ZiPS projecting it at 9.4 percent. Dozier’s .242 average and .416 slugging percentage in 2014 were not too special, but his .345 on-base percentage was, and it made up a large part of his offensive value. However, a walk rate so high for Dozier might be unsustainable because Dozier has never posted such a mark at any level in his career, but there is also an argument that it is sustainable.

There might be an explanation for Dozier’s increased walk rate in 2014. He has an uber-patient approach, swinging at just 38.3 percent of the pitches he sees, which is a big difference from the 46.7 percent league-average swing rate last year. He also swung at 51.8 percent of pitches in the zone compared to the league-average rate of 65.7 percent. Because of his patient approach, it makes logical sense that if Dozier saw fewer pitches in the zone, he would walk more because he inherently takes so many pitches. Well, that was the case in 2014, as he saw just 50.7 percent of his pitches in the zone in 2014 compared to 54.0 percent and 54.4 percent of the time the previous two seasons.

This may not completely explain why he walked so more, but it likely explains a good portion of it. What is crazy, though, is that Dozier was still seeing more pitches in the zone than the 44.9 percent league average. Part of that is because pitchers know he is more patient and attack him more, but is there really a chance that Dozier could walk even more? It is impossible to say how many pitches he will see in the zone in 2015, but his walk rate may not be guaranteed to drop like the projection systems and intuition might say.

The second reason why these systems project a fall off is a drop in power. Whereas Dozier had a .174 ISO and a .416 slugging percentage last year, Steamer projects he will have a .143 ISO and .384 SLG in 2015, and ZiPS estimates he will have a .155 ISO and .399 SLG.

However, Dozier might not see any regression in that area. His power numbers were very similar in 2013, as he had a .170 ISO and .414 SLG, so he has shown he can keep up this level of power production over a larger sample size. The likely reason why these projections see him regressing in the power department is because of his 2012 season, when he had just a .098 ISO and .332 SLG in 340 plate appearances. But can we really say that his 2012 numbers in 340 plate appearances mean much in the grand scheme of things when he sustained a much greater level of power over 1,330 plate appearances over the past two seasons?

If anything, we might actually see Dozier take a step forward in 2015. His .269 BABIP in 2014 was much lower than the .299 league average, and while Dozier has always maintained a lower BABIP, we could see it come closer to his .278 mark from 2013, and this would inherently have a positive effect on his stats. Steamer and ZiPS do see his BABIP rising to .276 and .279 respectively in 2015.

Better defense might also boost Dozier’s overall value. In 2014, he posted a -2.7 Def, but the year before he had a 1.3 Def. Steamer and ZiPS project his Def will be 2.1 and 1.3 respectively. Dozier has shown he ability to be an average defender in the past but was slightly-below average in 2014, so a slight rebound would further help his overall value.

Also, Dozier is still just 27 years old. Since he is in what is commonly considered a player’s prime years, he could simply be getting better as a player, and he could continue to get even better while he still is at a ripe age.

Because baseball is inherently hard to predict, we cannot say with 100 percent certainty that Dozier will be as good, or better, in 2015 than he was in 2014. However, do not just glance over the projection systems and expect him to regress in 2015, because that may not be the case. In fact, we could even see a slightly better Dozier this season, and the Twins would surely love that as they look to lock him up for the long haul.

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