When kids dream of becoming professional baseball players, they usually don’t dream of having a career like Brian Dozier’s. The former Minnesota Twins second baseman became an All-Star, a Gold Glove Award winner, and a World Series champion, but his career was a case of unexpected ascension.
As an average minor league player who made his MLB debut at 25 years old, Dozier became worthy of a $20 million contract and potentially more later in his career. That path made Dozier one of the most unlikely stars of the past decade.
Dozier had a respectable career in the minor leagues after being selected in the eighth round of the 2009 draft. Although he put up a line of .298/.370/.409, he was never one of the Twins’ top prospects. He reached Triple-A in 2012 but didn’t have the look of a major league shortstop, hitting .232/.286/.337 in 181 plate appearances.
He was promoted later that year and hit .234/.271/.332 in his rookie season — similar to what he had put up in Rochester — but lacked the arm strength for shortstop. Even after he switched to second base, he still didn’t look like a major leaguer, hitting .241 with a .715 OPS in his first three seasons.
Dozier was teetering on the brink of being a utility player at age 27, but things clicked in the first half of 2014. He added new dimensions to his game, and his 18 home runs in the first 92 games of that season were more than the 16 he hit during his four seasons in the minors combined. After hitting .220/.305/.366 in the first month of the 2015 season, Dozier began to show signs of life. He smacked 14 home runs between May and June. That barrage helped earn his lone All-Star Game selection.
As the Twins slogged through a franchise-record 103 losses in 2016, Dozier became a household name in Minnesota. His first-half line of .246/.335/.450 with 14 HR and 43 RBI was respectable, but his second half became the reason why people tuned in to watch the Twins during a miserable season.
In 72 games, Dozier hit .291 with 28 HR and 56 RBI that included a .646 slugging percentage that would make Babe Ruth blush. He made Twins fans forget that Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone were struggling to get past the fifth inning.
Dozier wound up with 42 home runs that season, which was an American League record for a second baseman, but by the time he turned 30 the Twins had to decide whether he could keep this production up to warrant an extension. As Minnesota crunched the numbers, other teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers came calling with top prospects in exchange for a player who looked like just another guy two seasons ago.
In hindsight, this would have been a great time for the Twins to move on, but Dozier didn’t fall off the map in 2017. With a .271/.359/.498 line that included 34 HR and 93 RBI, Dozier wrapped up a stretch where he became one of the best offensive second basemen in all of baseball.
With a complete skill set that included a Gold Glove in 2017, Dozier entered the 2018 season with high expectations. Instead, he stumbled out of the gate hitting .227/.307/.405 in 104 games with the Twins before getting traded to a Dodgers team that had championship expectations and helped the Twins acquire Devin Smeltzer.
Dozier struggled in Los Angeles before signing a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. He wasn’t the player he was in his prime, but Dozier became a World Series champion at age 32. He had gone from an eighth-round pick out of Southern Mississippi to a shirtless dancer at a World Series parade — a career had become baseball’s version of an urban legend.
His tenure in the MLB ended with a seven-game stint with the New York Mets. All told, he hit .244/.325/.441 with 192 HR, 561 RBI, and 105 stolen bases in nine major league seasons. Those numbers aren’t Hall of Fame worthy, but the story of Dozier’s career is something Twins fans will talk about for a long time.