Royals AAA prospects Hunter Dozier and Jorge Bonifacio earned places on the 2016 Futures Team on Tuesday. The accolade was a big boost for two prospects whose careers appeared stalled.
The Futures Game is an event that was created in 1999 and takes place during All-Star Game weekend. It pits a U.S. team against a World team composed of top prospects from every team in major league baseball. At least one player must represent each of the 30 teams, and no more than two can come from one farm system.
Players at every level are eligible for selection, but typically the Futures team is composed of top AAA and AA prospects. A joint committee composed of representatives from MLB.com, Major League Baseball, and Baseball America magazine select the players.
"“I was proud that both of those guys got selected,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “They are both great candidates.”"
Twenty-four year old Hunter Dozier was a first round draft pick in 2013 as the no. 8 overall pick, but stalled after two consecutive poor seasons at AA NW Arkansas in 2014 and 2015. Dozier came alive in his third season with the NW Arkansas Naturals, slashing .305/.400/.642 with eight home runs in 95 at bats.
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Dozier earned a quick promotion to AAA Omaha has has continued to hit with a .298/.347/.492 triple slash with seven home runs in 181 at bats. His Futures Game selection to the U.S. team confirms that baseball analysts have noticed his return to prospect status.
Twenty-three year old Jorge Bonifacio similarly hit a wall in 2014 and 2015 after joining the Kansas City Royals as a seven-figure international signing in 2010 at age 17.
Bonifacio quickly moved up through the system until he hit AA NW Arkansas. Bonifacio slashed .230/.302/.309 in 2014, and an improved but still substandard .240/.305/.416 in 2015. Nevertheless, Bonifacio earned a promotion to AAA in 2016, and has turned things around at the plate hitting .299/.361/.523 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs.
KC Royals vice president J.J. Piccolo said:
"“Proud of the year both guys are having,” said vice president/assistant GM of player personnel J.J. Picollo. “They have matured as hitters and handled themselves well in Omaha. It’s a great honor and well deserved to be part of such an event as the Futures Game.”"
Bonifacio and Dozier are part of what has been a better than expected performance from the KC Royals farm system, which was consistently rated in the bottom third of baseball by most analysts before the 2016 season. In addition to the pair’s 2016 rebound, the Kansas City Royals have gotten unexpected help from rookies Whit Merrifield, Cheslor Cuthbert, Brett Eibner, and reliever Brian Flynn with the big club.