|Brian Dozier can take the shortstop job and run with it in 2012|
1. Defensively, I acknowledge that some aren't very high on Dozier, and actually view him as more of a second baseman. Even assuming that he is not the greatest defensive shortstop (although the reports have been pretty positive this spring), the falloff from 38 year old Jamey Carroll to 24 year old Dozier will not be significant. Carroll has limited range, and actually was not even predominately a shortstop earlier in his career. I simply don't see a downside -- defensively -- to having Dozier man the 6-hole, when compared with the alternative.
2. Correspondingly, if Dozier plays shortstop, Carroll could move to second base. Carroll can still bat at the top of the order and be that on-base guy that the Twins desperately need, but I think he would be better, and perhaps more comfortable, at second. The stats on Carroll seem to suggest just that: his total defensive contribution at second has been positive (49 runs above average), but has been negative (4 runs below average) at shortstop.
3. Taking this one step further, having Dozier at short and Carroll at second essentially solves the Twins' utility infielder conundrum: Alexi Casilla is the answer. The Twins do not need to think about looking outside the organization for a Nick Punto-esque player (or even Nick Punto himself) to play second and short in a pinch.
4. The Twins, in all likelihood, won't be winning the division this season. Even if things go right offensively, I think the starting pitching will again be problematic. I'm not going call 2012 a rebuilding year, because a team with a $100 million payroll is not in rebuilding mode, but still it's fair to point out that, with the Tigers perceived dominance and the Twins' perceived weaknesses, it could be a challenging year. What better time to bring in a young prospect. Sure, the expectations will still be high for Dozier, but it presents a good opportunity to let a young guy get a year of MLB experience under his belt.
5. The Twins haven't shied away from aggressive moves this month, most notably by demoting failed shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka to AAA Rochester. The organization, in my opinion, has effectively admitted that the $14.5 million investment in Nishioka was a bust -- but also that the team will not let Nishioka take up a spot on the Target Field bench just because of the paycheck he is "earning." Tough love, indeed, for Nishioka. But Nishioka's loss -- and the Twins' aggressive move to jettison him -- could bode well for Dozier. Additionally, if the Twins plan to use Nishioka at shortstop in Rochester, he will have to split time with Dozier there. From a practicality standpoint, if the Twins ever want Nishioka to get better, he will have to play every day somewhere, just like Dozier. Another aggressive decision -- this time a promotion instead of a demotion -- will send the signal to some of the other young prospects (and perhaps some of our veterans) that hard work can quickly be rewarded in this organization.
6. Dozier has not looked lost in Spring Training. I haven't been following every at-bat, but I have read enough to know that Dozier is holding his own (batting .273 going into Thursday's game), and there has been little mention of bonehead fielding plays or dumb baserunning gaffes. Not that these won't come with any rookie, but it's fair to state that Dozier has not embarrassed himself at all while playing alongside some guys he probably looks up to in a pretty big way.
7. Why should Dozier spend a superficial 3 or 4 months at Rochester? If the Twins expect Dozier to hit major league pitching in the very near future -- like July or August or September of 2012 -- and then to continue hitting major league pitching for the next 10 or more years, why not start now, especially if there are not very many good players at Dozier's position above him on the depth chart? In Rochester, Dozier would be seeing some pitchers on their way up, some on their way down, and maybe a couple major league pitchers rehabbing injuries, but the competition would not be as fierce.
8. Last, but not least, this move gives fans something to be excited about. Carroll is not by any means a sexy or dynamic player. Dozier, on the other hand, could be the first in a wave of "new Twins" (hopefully soon to include Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee), like Mauer and Morneau in the early 2000s, and gamers like Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie and Johan Santana before that, and Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti even before that.
There are probably 8 or more reasons not to directly promote Dozier (including the issue of whether he is really going to be a solid defensive shortstop, the fact that having Casilla as the utility infielder raises an issue for a substitute third baseman, and the argument that the Twins should wait to promote Dozier to avoid him achieving Super 2 status), but I'm not convinced by any of them. Under my plan, the only thing that is really "lost" is a full season of Casilla at second base. But I guess I'm at the point with Casilla where I would rather gamble on Dozier, who admittedly is not a sure thing, than on Casilla, who most certainly is not a sure thing (and is no longer a young player, either). In the worst case scenario, Dozier cannot hack it in the majors yet, and will be sent down. This could be tough on Dozier, but it happens dozens of times a season, sometimes even to well established players -- but you know what -- adults learn to deal with it.
I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. Am I way off-base here? Or do you agree Dozier is ready for his shot?