After the KC Royals released infielder Hunter Dozier in May 2023, fans had not heard much regarding the vilified Dozier. Now, he is back in baseball thanks to the Los Angeles Angels adding Dozier on a minor-league deal on Jan. 18, 2024.
Dozier will join the Angels in big league camp ahead of the 2024 season. He has a path to the Opening Day roster if he exceeds expectations in spring training. Los Angeles already has promising options at first and third base, but Dozier could serve as a platoon bat at either position. First baseman Nolan Schanuel was LA's top draft pick in 2023 and is the favorite to be their Opening Day starter at that position. Dozier could be his primary backup, but all that hinges on him shaking off years of underperformance with the Royals.
Former KC Royals infielder joins the Los Angeles Angels, trying to keep his career alive.
It will be strange to see the 32-year-old Dozier in a uniform that isn't a Royals one. Kansas City drafted him in 2013 with the eighth overall pick. He hardly lived up to expectations, moving very slowly through the farm system.
He turned things around in 2016, excelling in Double-A and Triple-A, then making his MLB debut. Royals fans wouldn't see him in the majors again until 2018. He played 102 games, struggling on the field and at the plate. Those problems seemed contagious on that 2018 squad that went 58-104. At last, Dozier surged in 2019, hitting a career-high 26 home runs and posting a 123 wRC+ across 139 games. He wasn't perfect, but it was a surprising performance from the Stephen F. Austin State alum.
He followed that up with a step back in 2020, but he was still above replacement level. That pandemic-shortened season saw many odd individual seasons, so Dozier's sudden drop in production was not terribly surprising. The Royals committed to Dozier with a four-year, $25 million extension with a fifth-year option.
Almost immediately, though, the contract became a mistake. He was a below-average batter across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, hitting only 28 home runs and recording a .680 OPS in that span. But his glove was abysmal and drove him to two straight -1 fWAR seasons. He returned to Kansas City in 2023, but only lasted 29 games before the team finally moved on.