Brian Dozier was worth 4.6 wins above replacement in 2014, according to FanGraphs. That's good enough to make him the fifth-best second baseman in all of baseball. It's a super boring answer to our question, though, whether you buy into a single number representing a player's on-field value or not. Also, it's a ranking based off of how Dozier performed last year, which really isn't the question anyway.
The MLB Network has been endeavoring to rank players at their positions as we inch towards spring training. It seems like their answer was a bit more nuanced.
Second base is stacked in the American League. Jose Altuve in Houston; Robinson Cano in Seattle; Omar Infante in Kansas City; Ian Kinsler in Detroit; Jason Kipnis in Cleveland; Dustin Pedtroia in Boston; Ben Zobrist in Oakland. It's worth noting that Zobrist, Kinsler, Cano, and Altuve ranked one through four on the same list that we referenced earlier, the one that put Dozier fifth. In fact, in 2014 the top seven second basemen on that list were all from the American League, which brings us full circle to the start of this paragraph: second base is stacked in the AL.
Here's now the MLB Network stacks up their top ten for 2015, per Mike Berardino's tweet above. You can find the video below.
- Robinson Cano, Mariners
- Dustin Pedtroia, Red Sox
- Ben Zobrist, Athletics
- Neil Walker, Pirates
- Ian Kinsler, Tigers
- Jose Altuve, Astros
- Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
- Chase Utley, Phillies
- Brian Dozier, Twins
- Scooter Gennett, Brewers
If that list seems a bit "influenced," you're not alone. Granted, Dozier at ninth place amidst such well-known and highly regarded names is hardly a bad thing, especially when you consider that 2014 was his breakout season. Yet Utley is a 36-year old who hasn't broken the four-win mark since 2010; Walker's history doesn't have anything to suggest he's five whole spots better than Dozier; Kipnis, Infante, Kolten Wong, and Brandon Phillips are all missing; Gennett's ranking appears to be based off of his age and the promise of 2013.
Over the last two seasons, Dozier qualifies as the eighth-best second baseman in baseball (again, per FanGraphs). Keep in mind that fWAR adjusts for position, batting, base running, fielding, league, and replacement level, so it does attempt to cover a lot of ground and has its own merits. By those objective measures, Dozier can be described - quite legitimately - as a young, team-controlled (and therefore inexpensive) player who hits well above average for his position and who is a competent defender. You put all of those things together, and I'm not sure Dozier isn't a top five second baseman in baseball heading into 2015.
MLB Network's "The Shredder" is, allegedly, a cold system that allows Brian Kenny (or his production team) to plug in numbers and get an emotionless, unbiased result (which seems odd in Gennett's case considering his sky-high BABIP numbers but okay). If that's the case, then arguing FanGraphs value versus The Shredder is spinning our wheels.
All of which leaves us with the eye test, if we dare. Which, in all fairness, we shouldn't. Our eyes lie to us. And even if they didn't, we don't see any of those other players even half as often as we see Dozier. Basing our opinion on Dozier's ranking among the game's best second basemen off of our eyes wouldn't make us any better than the crazies sitting in a basement somewhere, shouting over the precipice of an infinitely black hole that would serve as the illustration for the Internet that, hey, I just feel my opinion and this is the Internet so you have to listen to me.
That's how I feel right now when I say that Dozier is definitely a top five second baseman in baseball; The Shredder be damned. Luckily, this is the Internet.