St. Louis Cardinals: Comparing Brian Dozier and Kolten Wong

The St. Louis Cardinals found themselves in the middle of some major rumors this week after various reports linked them to second baseman Brian Dozier. If they are true, is he really an upgrade over Kolten Wong?

The St. Louis Cardinals have been very supportive of Kolten Wong and incredibly reluctant to trade him this offseason. Now, they are reported to being very serious about Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier. Recently, there have been mixed reports on whether the Cardinals are truly wanting Dozier or if the reports out of Minnesota were more of a tactic to drive the price up for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Regardless, the notion of adding a second baseman is interesting. General Manager John Mozeliak has been adamant on playing Kolten Wong full-time this coming season and has supported him by even claiming he could play Gold-Glove caliber defense. So if the Brian Dozier rumors are true, firstly, Dozier would have to be an upgrade over Kolten Wong.

Brian Dozier has a slash-line of .246/.320/.442 over his four and a half season career. He’s also hit  for more than 20 home runs for three straight years including his 42 homers in 2016. Dozier’s bat has been mainly utilized throughout the 1-3 spots for the Twins and that has lead him to being in the top 17 in runs scored over the past three seasons. Add in the fact that Dozier can steal 20 bases a year and you have a pretty complete hitter.

The obvious issues with Dozier though, are his batting average, strikeout rate, and his inconsistencies year-to-year. Firstly, his batting average has never been a strength. His career high, which came in 2016 was .268 while he failed to exceed a BA over .244 previously.

Dozier is also coming off his second straight season of a strikeout percentage of 20% or higher (Wong’s highest was 16.4% in 2014). Furthermore, Dozier has been pretty inconsistent season to season. Just one example of this is his OBP which has fluctuated 40 points from 2014 to 2015 and then about another 40 points from 2015 to 2016.

Defensively, Dozier has been average to slightly above average at second base. In 2016, he played well recording 3 defensive runs saved, a 0.2 ultimate zone rating, and recording a .989 fielding percentage. He also made 99% of the “routine” plays according to Fangraphs but only made 62.5% of the “likely” plays which is on the lower end.

Comparatively, Wong has been consistently strong at second base. Over the past three seasons, he has recorded 5 DRS or higher, a positive UZR, and an average fielding percentage of about .977. In 2016, he made 97.5% of routine plays, 92.3% of likely plays, and even 71.4% of “Even” plays. Wong, statistically, has shown an elite ability to make plays that wouldn’t normally be made and he makes them at a high rate.

Despite the great defense, the St. Louis Cardinals have issues with Kolten Wong and they come at the plate. He has a major league slash-line of .248/.309/.370 while never recording more than 12 home runs. He has been able to steal 20 bases but due to his inability to get on base at a consistent rate, he doesn’t reach similar numbers regarding runs scored. His inconsistencies are well known if you are a Cards fan and have really hindered his play time and value going forward.

Overall, Wong and Dozier both have strengths, weaknesses, and inconsistencies. It is clear that Dozier is a much better bat considering his power but can his OBP be trusted considering it drastically changes year-to-year? His speed and defense would be good but they’re not quite as good as Kolten Wong’s. Wong’s defense throughout his career and in 2016 showed that he really could be considered for a gold glove if he has a good season while Dozier likely never will be.

Furthermore, Wong is signed through 2020 with an additional option year available while Brian Dozier is only under contract through 2018. However, both players’ contracts are relatively cheap and team-friendly.

Dozier is a clear upgrade offensively, even with his inconsistencies. Wong is the better defender but Dozier, on his down years, isn’t absolutely terrible. However, if Mozeliak’s plan is rely on infield defense for team success, Wong should remain. But, if Dozier’s bat is available at a decent price, he could really make this OBP-heavy lineup come to life. Remember, Dozier has been this good of a batter while playing on some poor Twins teams.

The rumors of the St. Louis Cardinals being interested in Dozier are incredibly interesting even if they aren’t completely true. To upgrade over Wong, the Cards would need to find someone with a good enough bat where it compensates for any defensive loss because there isn’t many second baseman that are better defensively.

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It will also come down to what the Cardinals would have to give up. Would a package of Wong, Luke Weaver and Harrison Bader be enough? Or would Mozeliak have to dive in deeper and add in someone like Austin Gomber or Sandy Alcantara? And if so, is all of that really worth giving up for a second baseman who will play worse defense than what the Cardinals have now? Maybe Dozier’s power bat is enough to make up for any concerns the Redbirds may have. Wong versus Dozier, who would you rather have in 2017?

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