There's been a great deal of focus on Aaron Hicks' struggles this season, and that's bound to happen when a 23-year-old with sky-high expectations starts the season with two hits in 43 at-bats and strikes out around 40 percent of his plate appearances.
There are struggles up and down the lineup though, and for all the preseason talk about how he feels like he belongs this year, Brian Dozier has yet to get things going at the plate. Dozier has collected a hit in just four of the Twins' games so far, and he's had some strikeout issues of his own with nine in 39 plate appearances.
For as much as has been made about Hicks' struggles, Dozier's OPS+ of 27 is downright Buterian. Obviously the caveat here is that we're dealing with such a small sample size that it's tough to glean anything from it. Dipping into last season though, Dozier's triple-slash line is troubling. His OPS peaked at .816 following his 11th game, and if you look at the numbers since, he's batting .215/.256/.295 in 83 games. Even after returning to the Minors in 2012, it's not as if he pulled a Chris Parmelee and went back to destroying Triple-A pitching. Dozier hit .232/.286/.337 in his 48 games with Rochester last season.
His 2013 numbers could take a drastic turn for the better with a pair of multi-hit games, so it's not like there's he's in a hole from which he can't escape, but it would've been nice to see him get off to a hot start. Instead, his strikeout rate is up, his line drives are down and he's chasing more pitches out of the zone. Part of that is likely due to the fact that he's seeing more sliders (29.7 percent) than anyone on the team, but sliders were actually one of the least problematic pitchers for Dozier last season so it can't all be attributed to a steady dose of breaking pitches.
There's plenty of time for Dozier to have a turnaround, but there's also more competition in the middle infield than there is around the rest of the 25-man roster. Eduardo Escobar and Jamey Carroll could both start taking some playing time away from Dozier if his struggles continue for much longer.
Dozier turns 26 on May 15, and at that point he'll have nearly a year's worth of service time and more than 100 Major League games under his belt. I think he deserves the opportunity to prove he can stick at this level, but another month of the same anemic offense he's shown dating back to 2012 will make it hard to keep giving him starts with other infield options available. Hopefully by that point, we're able to look back and say any early concerns weren't worth the time.