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Brian Dozier - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper


Washington Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier entered the 2018 season bolted in as a top-five 2B in fantasy baseball after posting four consecutive seasons with 100 or more runs scored, 20 or more homers, and at least 12 stolen bases. While there was a bit of a step back in the power department for Dozier in 2017, dropping from 42 to 34 bombs, he had a career-best .359 OBP and .271 batting average, as well as 199 R+RBI. Leading off for a Twins team that made a surprise playoff appearance in 2017, the bar was high for the 30-year-old.

2018 did not go according to plan though, as the pending free agent posted a career-worst .305 OBP and his worst run production and power numbers since 2013. He was traded from the Twins to the Dodgers during the season and, while many thought that the move to Los Angeles would create a spark for the soon-to-be free agent, he only posted a .650 OPS with the Dodgers in 47 games.

With a move to the National League East to the Nationals, can Dozier be a top-100 player once again?

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What Happened in 2018?

The first thing to answer is "how good was Dozier before this down season?" Beyond the answer of "very", there was only one other infielder that had at least 250 extra base hits and 60 stolen bases from 2014-2017 (Jose Altuve was the other); Dozier had 278 and 67 compared to Altuve's 254 and 156.

Now, Altuve differentiated himself with batting average (.334 vs .254), but there is a good argument to be had of who was the more valuable 2B of the two in that time period, especially considering that Dozier had more RBI (340 vs. 302) and runs scored (423 vs. 391). When you consider that Altuve was a first-round draft pick this season and Dozier was available in the fourth round or later, there is a case to be made that adding Dozier later was the better move.

Then the wheels came off in 2018. Looking at his statistics, there was not much of a change in plate discipline, as his BB% was 11.1 in both 2017 and 2018 and his K% was similar in both seasons (20% in 2017 and 20.4% in 2018). There was an obvious drop in his BABIP from .300 to .240, odd because his hard hit ball rate was at a career-best 37.3% in 2018.

In fact, Dozier's hard hit ball rate has either improved or stayed the same in each season that he has been in the big leagues (34.7% in 2016 and 34.1% in 2017 is just too close to call). When looking at Dozier's batted-ball profile, though, you see a drop in line drives (16.8% in 2018 and a career rate of 19.3%), a rise in ground balls (39.5% is his worse in a full season), and a jump from an infield fly ball rate in the 13% range in 2016 and 2017 to 17.1% in 2018. There was also news that Dozier played through a severe bone bruise in his knee throughout the season.

 

Why Bet On a Comeback?

The positive trends with his hard hit ball rate project well for the future, as does the fact that he saw a bit of a jump in his contact rate (79.4% in 2018 after posting a 77.7% rate in 2017), but the biggest factor for Dozier's 2019 prospects was where he ended up in free agency.

A move to Washington is nice as, even though the Nats are without Bryce Harper (as of now), they still have All-Star caliber players in Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, and Ryan Zimmerman. There is a strong chance that he approaches 175 R+BI, 60 XBH, and double-digit stolen bases in Washington; only six players that had MI eligibility had at least 60 extra-base hits, 10 stolen bases, 90 runs scored, and 70 RBI last season.

The biggest factor here is that Dozier, on average, is going 149th in average draft position (13th among 2B). Dozier may not jump all the way up into the top-five among 2B eligible players this season but there is a very good chance that he finishes inside of the top-10 his position and the top-100 overall. He is a player to watch in the middle of the draft, as his poor 2018 season may have fantasy owners look the other way in 2019.

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