Hunter Dozier was drafted 8th overall by the Kansas City Royals in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, much to the surprise of a great many baseball pundits. Thus far, Dozier is making the criticisms hurled at the Royals for his selection look correct.
When the Kansas City Royals drafted Hunter Dozier with the 8th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, there were a number of questions. As Dozier was expected to be drafted in the late first or early second rounds, his selection in the 8th spot appeared to be a way that the Royals were looking to save a bit of money in the draft pool. As they were able to sign Dozier to a below slot contract, and then use some of those savings to sign Sean Manaea, those suspicions appeared to have some basis of truth.
However, that does not mean that Dozier was not an interesting prospect in his own right. Although BleacherReport.com stated that Dozier would be the biggest bust in the top ten, there was still a lot to like. As a college shortstop, he had the arm to play third, and was expected to become a solid defensive presence. In his junior year in college, he posted a .396/.482/.755 batting line, hitting 17 home runs and stealing 12 bases. That type of production in the middle of the infield will attract notice.
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Those abilities manifested during his first minor league season. Playing for both the Idaho Falls Chukars and the Lexington Legends, Dozier posted a combined .308/.397/.495 batting line, hitting 30 doubles and seven home runs in 317 plate appearances. He drew 38 walks against 37 strikeouts, leading SB Nation to laud his approach at the plate and speculate that he could be an eventual 25+ home run threat in the majors.
Predictably, Dozier took a step back the following season. He performed well for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, posting a .295/.397/.429 batting line with four home runs and 18 doubles in 267 plate appearances. While he struck out more than he walked, Dozier’s 56 strikeout to 36 walk rate was still proof of his solid batting eye.
Sent to Northwest Arkansas for the second half, Dozier struggled. In the same 267 plate appearances, Dozier produced a meager .209/.303/.312 batting line, hitting four home runs and 12 doubles. His strikeout rate spiked, he struck out 70 times against 31 walks. The struggles could be explained by the increased level of competition, but Dozier was only two years younger than the average in the Texas League in 2014.
Back with the Naturals in 2015, Dozier improved, but only slightly. He produced a .213/.281/.349 batting line with 12 home runs and 27 doubles, but saw his strikeout rate increase. In 523 plate appearances, Dozier struck out 151 times while drawing 45 walks, for a 3.35 K/BB rate. His strikeout percentage increased from 26.2% with the Naturals in 2014 to 28.9% last season.
Likely to at least begin the season in Northwest Arkansas again, the biggest key for Dozier to become the player that the Kansas City Royals hope for is to improve his contact rate. He had a 22.0% line drive rate and a .280 batting average on balls in play, but that ballooning 28.9% strikeout rate minimized the improvement that he displayed last season. By putting the ball into play more, a mantra that the Royals believe in, Dozier could get on track towards becoming the prospect that they had expected.
The luster has been lost on Hunter Dozier. However, with a positive performance and an improved contact rate, the Kansas City Royals former third baseman of the future may find himself back on track.