A former first-round draft pick, Hunter Dozier has always had to carry immense pressure to perform well. 2016 was a huge year for the third baseman, one in which Dozier hit 23 home runs and brought 75 runs across the plate throughout two minor-league levels. A pair of injuries limited Dozier to just 33 MiLB games last season – can he put 2017 behind him and make the MLB club this year?
If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Cheslor Cuthbert, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Cuthbert’s 2017 season was cut shorter than he wanted due to injury, much like Hunter Dozier. Dozier is a 26-year-old third baseman the Royals love. He offers a bat with power and walk potential, but with quite a few strikeouts to boot. After struggling in the 2015 season at AA Northwest Arkansas, the Royals decided to keep Dozier there to start 2016. It’s safe to say they made the right call by doing so.
A brief introduction
Through 26 AA games in 2016, Dozier was hitting .305 with an on-base percentage of .400. He also added a whopping eight home runs and 21 RBIs. To put that into perspective, Dozier averaged a home run every three-ish games and drove in nearly as many runs as he played games. After his torrid start to the season, Dozier was promoted to AAA Omaha. In 103 games there, he hit .294 with an OBP of .357 to go with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs. This performance was good enough to earn Dozier a September call-up and, subsequently, eight games worth of major-league experience. Expectations skyrocketed for Dozier heading into 2017.
What did he offer last season?
At best, Dozier’s 2017 season was an immense struggle. At worst, it was a complete and utter disaster. Either way, it was rough. An oblique strain caused him to miss April and most of May. A broken hamate bone (wrist fracture at the base of the hand) put him on the shelf for nearly two months. Dozier played just 33 games in the minor leagues in 2017, with 24 of them at AAA Omaha. A .226 batting average and 38.5% strikeout rate in Omaha capsuled Dozier’s disastrous 2017 season. Dozier was never able to get going and as soon as he became healthy, the injury bug reared its ugly head again. This is a rather short summary of a player’s season because, well… nothing really happened.
What can we expect in 2018?
A report came out last October indicating that Hunter Dozier could spend time at both third base and first base this season. Here’s what Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo had to say:
"“The plan is to primarily play him at third base with some first base… the goal is just about at-bats.”"
That sounds about right. If Eric Hosmer doesn’t re-sign with the team, expect Dozier to get a lot more playing time. If Hosmer returns, I’m not sure Dozier will even make the 25-man roster to begin the season. Cheslor Cuthbert is projected to start at third base instead of Dozier. Evidently, Steamer thinks Hosmer is as good as gone:
- 102 games played
- .224 BA
- .291 OBP
- 10 HR
- 40 RBI
Don’t get too caught up in the home run or RBI projections. There are various reports on the status of Eric Hosmer’s potential reunion with the team, so it’s nearly impossible to set up a games played prediction for Dozier without knowing what Hosmer will do. If Hosmer returns, expect significantly fewer than 102 games played for Dozier. Also, expect the under on home runs and RBIs. With Hosmer out of the picture, Dozier could easily play more than 102 games and have more than 10 HR and 40 RBIs. Either way, I anticipate Dozier will hit higher than .224 and will have an OBP higher than .291 in the playing time he does get this season.
Hunter Dozier is an interesting player. His natural position is third base, but the Royals have attempted to play him at first base and in the outfield as well. His 2016 season indicated he may be ready for the major leagues, but that notion was put to rest when two significant injuries took away well over half of his 2017. With a healthy offseason under his belt and (still) high expectations surrounding him, Dozier’s as motivated as ever to prove he’s ready for the MLB. At the age of 26, it’s time for the Royals to find out what they have in Hunter Dozier.
What do you think, Royals fans? Was Hunter Dozier’s 2016 season a flash in the pan? What about last season? Is he ready for the MLB? Let us know what you have to say!