FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite a career year that saw him hit 42 homers, Twins second baseman James Dozier came up empty-handed during award season last year.Dozier was a top candidate to win an American League Silver Slugger Award, but he faced stiff competition with the award ultimately going to
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite a career year that saw him hit 42 homers, Twins second baseman James Dozier came up empty-handed during award season last year.
Dozier was a top candidate to win an American League Silver Slugger Award, but he faced stiff competition with the award ultimately going to Houston's Jose Altuve, who led the AL with a .338 batting average. Dozier also picked up votes in the balloting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, finishing 13th, largely because of Minnesota's 103-loss season.
But 2017 could be the year that Dozier earns his first hardware, as he believes he's capable of repeating his monster year. It's unlikely Dozier will be able to replicate his torrid second half that saw him hit .291/.344/.646 with 28 homers in 72 games, but it's worth noting he got off to a slow start, hitting .202 with five homers in his first 46 games through May 31.
Dozier knows that most people don't expect him to display that kind of power again, but he's ready to silence his critics.
"That's what fuels me -- 'It's always been a fluke,'" Dozier said. "I love that stuff. Whoever says it, keep saying it. I might hit 50 [homers]."
Dozier, though, isn't the only Twins player with the potential to win an award, as center fielder Byron Buxton already ranks as one of the game's best defensive outfielders and could challenge for his first AL Gold Glove Award.
Buxton's top competition for the award includes Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier, last year's winner, as well as Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. and Toronto's Kevin Pillar.
Buxton played in 92 games last year, but with a full season, he's expected to be among the league leaders in advanced metrics with his range and plus arm. He's also worked hard with new outfield coach Jeff Pickler this spring to improve his defense even further, working to get more on top of the ball with his throws to keep them straighter and improving his glove position while fielding hard-hit line drives and getting better reads off the bat.
"It's more of the smaller things, but they become a big part in the long run," Buxton said. "It seems like every day working with him in the outfield, I'm learning something new. It's helping me out because now I don't have to think about things as much, but I can charge balls better and cut out the stutter steps."
While the Twins had plenty of rookies last year, such as Max Kepler, Jose Berrios, ByungHo Park and Buxton, this year's club features a young roster, but not many rookies. Of the club's rookie class, left-hander Adalberto Mejia is likely to get the most opportunity to contend for the award. Mejia, acquired from the Giants for Eduardo Nunez at the Trade Deadline, has been the biggest surprise this spring and remains in the mix to win the fifth-starter job.
And, of course, if the Twins surprise like they did in 2015, manager Paul Molitor could find himself in the running for the AL Manager of the Year Award after finishing third in the balloting in '15, when he led the club to an 83-win season.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](https://twitter.com/RhettBollinger)** and listen to his podcast.