KC Royals: Hunter Dozier’s defense should improve in 2020

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

With Hunter Dozier moving to right field for the KC Royals, his defense should be significantly better than what we saw at third in 2019.

Because the KC Royals signed Maikel Franco to a one-year deal, the club has decided to move third baseman Hunter Dozier to right field. Dozier experienced a huge breakout at the plate last season, posting a .279/.348/.522 line with 10 triples and 26 home runs in 139 games. At 28 years old, he’s just young enough to fit into the Royals’ future plans.

With that said, his defense at the hot corner is… not good. Despite possessing a good arm and solid athleticism, it hasn’t translated to the metrics on the defensive end. The eye test is a bit more forgiving than the numbers will show, but neither is positive.

In 2018, Dozier played 307 innings at third base. He posted a -2.9 UZR (further explained by FanGraphs here). When projected out to 150 games, which is FanGraphs’ comparison tool for players with limited sample sizes, etc., that number drops to -12.5.

Although Dozier’s UZR was worse in 2019 (-5.2), he played more than twice as many innings (858.2, to be exact). In theory, he was a better defender because his UZR/150 was -6.5. No matter how you slice it, Dozier is a subpar defender at best when it comes to third base.

So, what about first base? The sample size for last season was minuscule (62 innings), yet Dozier posted a UZR of just -0.1. In the previous season, it sat at an even 0.0 in 445 innings. Average defense at first sounds a lot better than bad defense at third, but let’s move on to what really matters.

Dozier logged a career-high 157.1 innings in right field, his newly-appointed position, a season ago. Posting a 1.0 UZR and a 7.5 UZR/150, it appears this is where he was meant to be all along. Possessing all the athletic tools necessary to succeed at the position, the metrics support the Royals’ decision to elect for a switch to right.

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Hunter Dozier is a franchise centerpiece for the KC Royals. Not only does he bring a ton to the table in terms of power and on-base ability, but he could also become a plus defender now that he’s in the outfield. Even if he doesn’t excel in his new spot, watching him play defense at a league-average level would be a welcome sight not only for the Royals — but their fans as well.