In 2013 I attended the Texas League All Star Game. It included such names as C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Tyler Matzek, and Odubel Herrera who have all made to the big leagues. However, even with all the talent assembled at this game there was one player who stood out above them all. That player was George Springer of the Houston Astros organization.
Springer led all of MiLB in homeruns at that point (18). He would knock out two more during the All Star game on his way to MVP honors. The thing about watching Springer, especially in this game, was the way that he appeared head and shoulders above his peers. He truly looked like a man playing against boys. This would also turn out to be Springer’s final game at the AA level. He was promoted to AAA following the game. I tell this story because a couple of seasons later I witnessed a similar situation with another player.
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The KC Royals Hunter Dozier, who entered the 2017 season as the team’s #2 prospect per minorleagueball.com, played the 2015 season for AA Northwest Arkansas when I first saw him play in person. Like Springer, Dozier clearly stood out among two teams made up of players with major league capable talent. He just simply looked like a big league player.
The same summer that Springer was tearing his way through the Texas League, Dozier became the #8 overall pick in the amateur draft. The shortstop from Stephen F. Austin was viewed by many to make the shift to the hot corner as he transitioned to professional ball. While his stats may not have been eye popping like those of Springer, Dozier still came across as someone who would contribute at the big league level.
In 1800 professional at bats Dozier owns a .262 BA. He has also knocked out 51 long balls and drove in 254. In 2016 he appeared to put it together as he slashed .296/.366/.533 with nearly half of his career home runs coming last season (23).
Two years after my first encounter with Dozier he is on the doorstep of what the Royals and their fans hope will be a long and successful career. Hunter made his major league debut last September. The biggest question is, what will be his place on the roster of the big club?
Clearly, after parts of 5 seasons in the minors, third base should be the top option. It just so happens that the KC Royals incumbent third bagger, Mike Moustakas, is a pending free agent at the end of the year. With free agency on the horizon, and a hot start to 2017, Moose could be a top trade candidate as the deadline nears. If Moose departs via trade or free agency, that would create an opportunity for Dozier.
Hunter also spent time at the corner outfield as the KC Royals looked at options to utilize his talents in Kansas City. With Alex Gordon, the emergence of Jorge Bonifacio, and off-season acquisition Jorge Soler the OF is starting to look a little crowded.
Dozier is currently rehabbing an oblique injury suffered during Spring Training. The future is coming fast for the top prospect. Kansas City expects to lose many key contributors from their championship team and prospects such as Hunter Dozier will be called upon to lead the next winning squad of KC Royals.
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If it is later this summer or next season Dozier will be one of the new faces that fans will be supporting as the KC Royals begin a new chapter.