2014 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Everyone’s Telling You to Sell Brian Dozier

dozier land
Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America

What if everyone’s wrong?

First, let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. When you’re evaluating a player’s fantasy value, context always matters. There is rarely a general statement that is fact for all league shapes and sizes. Alright, I’ll give you the canned answers that apply here and therefore are required of me by the fantasy advice gods; “everyone is available for the right price”, and “it’s early, he cannot maintain this current pace.”  Are we good? Find me on Twitter, @RyNoonan, if you have a specific question, but now let’s talk about the player.

We’re entering the 7th week of play, and so far in 2014, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is a top-10 fantasy player. Minnesota’s leadoff man is second in runs scored, tied for 4th in stolen bases and has hit 9 HRs. No one else who’s in the top 30 of steals has more than 5 HRs. These are quite lofty totals from a player that barely cracked the top 200 in preseason ADP. Dozier was, on average, the 17th second baseman selected in fantasy drafts, but I’d be hard-pressed to find five other second baseman that I’d rather own from here on out.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far this season, and talk about what’s changed.

Season PA AVG HR R RBI SB BB% K% BABIP OBP

2014

166

0.236

9

33

17

11

16.90%

19.30%

0.247

0.367

2013

623

0.244

18

72

66

14

8.20%

19.30%

0.278

0.312

2012

340

0.234

6

33

33

9

4.70%

17.10%

0.267

0.271

 

Scanning the numbers above quickly, a few things should jump off of the page. First is his batting average, but we‘ll come back to that in a moment. The massive change here is the BB%. Through the first two seasons of his career, Dozier was below average when it came to drawing walks. He’s batted up and down the order for the Twins, but regardless of where he’s hit, his walk rate was poor. Thrust into the full-time lead off spot in 2014 after just 74 games there in ‘13, Dozier has drastically changed his approach. His current 16.9% walk rate is good for 8th best in the league and is driving an above average OBP despite his sub .240 batting average.

He’s seeing more pitches, especially against right-handed pitching, and it’s leading to more opportunities. For the most part, his contact rates and batted ball profile are in line with his career norms, other than a spike in HR/FB%, which is currently at 17.8%.  His career-to-date percentage is 9.9%, but I think it’s reasonable to expect his 2014 number to stay above 10%. I’m comfortable drawing a line here; he’s seeing more pitches and it’ll continue to lead to a higher rate of hard contact.

As the Twins leadoff hitter, we can’t expect much from Dozier when it comes to his RBI totals. The caveat here is I think there is a lot of room for improvement in his batting average.  During his first two seasons, Dozier carried a BABIP around 30 points higher than his batting average. So far in 2014, that difference is just 10 points.  As we see with most right-handed hitters, Dozier has had his far share of success vs. left-handers. That hasn’t been the case in 2014.

Let’s take a look at his splits vs. lefties.

Season BB% K% AVG BABIP

2014

10.6

25.5

.214

.222

2013

            11.5

13.5

.328

.356

Career

8.7

16.7

.286

.309

 

We’d like everything to be linear and to make perfect sense, but this does not. The improvements that Dozier has made this season shouldn’t negatively impact the advantage that he’s had against lefties over his career. His strikeouts are up here and when he’s making contact, he’s not catching many breaks. When this stabilizes, we’re looking at an improved BA (think somewhere in the .255 -.260 range) and the likelihood of more runs and stolen bases as well.

Dozier (preseason ADP of 199 on FantasyPros) was drafted late, mainly as a MI or bench bat option with an outside chance at a 20/20 season. We’re six weeks in, and he’s halfway there and nearly leads the league in runs scored. As I mentioned at the top, everyone has a price, but I wouldn’t be shopping Dozier as a ‘sell high fluke’ type player. There’s little reason to doubt that a 20/20 season is on the way plus his move to the top of the order and improved plate discipline will make this late round draft pick a top-5 fantasy second baseman in 2014.

Follow Ryan on Twitter, @RyNoonan.  You can also hear Ryan once a week on ‘Caught Looking-The Fantasy Baseball Podcast’ for TheFantasyReport.net

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