Let’s Find the Next Brian Dozier

Aug 14, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) at bat in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. The Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 11-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 14, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (2) at bat in the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Target Field. The Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 11-4. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

With Minnesota Twins MLB All-Star, Brian Dozier, coming off one of the more impressive power surges in recent memory, let’s take a look at which young MLB player may follow next.

In 2016, Brian Dozier was a really good MLB player. That’s not all that interesting. You already knew that. In fact Dozier has always been a good player, in each of his four full seasons in the Major Leagues, Dozier has been an above average regular 2nd baseman. What makes Dozier so interesting to us is that in 2016 Dozier bashed his way to 42 home runs after having never posted more than 28 in a season. That’s a huge jump, going from above average power to elite. That’s something worth noticing.

So how exactly did he do it?

My first thought was that the All-Star second baseman had started hitting the ball in the air more in 2016. Dozier had previously posted solid Exit Velocities (per Baseball Savant) so logically hitting more balls in the air would lead to more power output. Based on this it was more than a little surprising to find that between 2015 and 2016, Dozier actually posted an identical average Launch Angle of 16.1 degrees.

At this point the article seemed dead in the water but I did a little more fishing and it turns out averages lie! In both seasons, Dozier may have posted the same average launch angle but the way he got there was in fact very different. The best way to show this is graphically (credit to Baseball Savant):

There’s a lot of information in these charts but the area that should draw your attention is above

More from Call to the Pen

the 20 degree line – that’s where the home runs are. It’s clear that in 2016, Dozier hit way more balls in that sweet spot leading to a big spike in power and a 6 win season.

So now that we’ve taken the longest route possible to establish that hitting more fly balls allowed Dozier to blossom as one of the best players in baseball, let’s start our search for Dozier 2.0. Let’s start by establishing exactly what we’re looking for here:

  1. Plays an up the middle defensive position (P, C, 2b, SS, CF)
  2. Posted a solid or better Exit Velocity in 2016
  3. Posted a below average rate of Balls in Play above 20 degrees in 2016
  4. Player is younger than 25
  5. Player has a K% of less than 25% ( to cancel out those whose issues stem from a lack of contact)

So with that sorted, let’s get started.

To start with I compiled a list of all the players under the age of 25 who play their defense up the middle ( I also subjectively excluded current stars, like Corey Seager, for the sake of the exercise). I then, using the Statcast Search at Baseball Savant found the number of balls hit by each player with a launch angle between 20 and 40 degrees and divided this by the number of balls in play to get a percentage. The results are in the table below:

PlayerEVH 20-40BIP20-40%
Orlando Arcia91.4223995.513784
Willson Contreras90.64035011.42857
Trea Turner92.15834616.76301
Jonathan Schoop91.67541318.15981
Chris Owings87.95630318.48185
Odubel Herrera87.99737126.14555
Tucker Barnhart89.17628127.04626
Rougned Odor92.211238229.31937
Addison Russell91.78728530.52632
Joe Panik89.39329531.52542
J.T. Realmuto89.97321334.2723
Kolten Wong87.15616035
Aledmys Diaz917922335.42601
Devon Travis89.16812454.83871
Marcell Ozuna92.510117856.74157

The first three names on that list are already extremely exciting in their own right, as former top prospects. Trea Turner burst on to the scene with the Nationals in 2016, complementing his game changing speed with surprising power. With 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 73 games, Turner possesses the potential for one of the more electric offensive profiles in the game over a full season. However, while there maybe room for even more power it may not be the best way to maximize his skill set. That said, who doesn’t want to dream about a shortstop posting a 40/40 season?

Wilson Contreras posted plenty of loud contact on his way to a .282/.357/.488 slash line in 2016, this despite just 11% of his batted balls falling within the 20-40 degree range. The physical demands of catching may prevent the Cubs’ backstop from ever reaching the 40 home run plateau but there’s plenty of room for his power to grow.

Next: MLB Approves Biometrics

Meanwhile, Arcia, a young shortstop in for the Brewers, was one of the top MLB prospects at the position for the last few years. After posting a bleak 64 wRC+, increasing his fly ball rate could prove a huge boost for Arcia who managed just 4 home runs in 216 plate appearances last year.

If, for those who possess above average exit velocities, hitting more balls in the air leads to greater power output, then each of Turner, Contreras and Arcia could breakout in a big way in 2016. With the former two already building off strong 2016 campaigns, these young players could force themselves into baseballs top tier in 2017.