KC Royals former 2013 no. 1 draft pick Hunter Dozier is back on track at AA NW Arkansas after an awful 2015 season.
Dozier is crushing the ball in his first nine games of the 2016 season, putting up an impressive .355/.459/.742 triple slash with 3 doubles and 3 home runs for an OPS of 1.201. That’s a vast improvement over his AA crash last season which saw Dozier hit a mere .213/.281/.349 in what turned out to be a lost season.
In 2013, Hunter Dozier was a surprise pick at no. 8 overall. No one expected the third baseman from Stephen F. Austin State University to get taken before the tail end of the first round. However, Dozier was part of a draft cap maneuver that allowed Kansas City Royals general manger Dayton Moore to land injured lefty pitcher Sean Manaea (who was a potential no. 1 overall before hip and shoulder injuries) with their no. 34 competitive balance pick because they were able to land Dozier for a below-slot deal at no. 8.
Hunter Dozier made Dayton Moore look like a genius when he quickly signed and tore up both Idaho Falls and Lexington with a combined .308/.397/.495 triple slash. Dozier looked like a mature college hitter that could move quickly through the KC Royals minor-league system.
However, Dozier stalled when he advanced to the high minors in 2014, slashing .251/.350/.369 while moving through High A Wilmington, AA NW Arkansas, and Peoria of the Arizona Fall League.
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When Dozier again struggled at AA NW Arkansas in 2015, many analysts wondered if he had topped out as a prospect at age 23.
That’s why Hunter Dozier’s strong start is so encouraging. While NW Arkansas has only played nine games, his restored ability to drive the ball early in the season gives scouts hope that he’s upped his game.
However, don’t expect to see the now 24-year-old Dozier with the Kansas City Royals anytime soon. Both he and AAA third base prospect Cheslor Cuthbert are currently blocked at the major-league level by All-Star third baseman Mike Moustakas—who is signed through the 2017 season.
Despite the obstacles in Hunter Dozier’s path, if he keeps hitting he can still help the big club this season by turning himself into an attractive trade target. The KC Royals could still use an upgrade in right field at the trade deadline, unless someone gets hot soon. Or, Dayton Moore could choose to add another top-of-the-rotation rental like he did with Johnny Cueto last season.