KC Royals: He's starting at third base, but may not last long

Chris Coduto/GettyImages

It's only been four years since Hunter Dozier began to make KC Royals fans believe life after Mike Moustakas might not be so bad after all. Just a season removed from re-signing Moustakas for the 2018 campaign only to trade him away just a few months later, the club handed third base over to Dozier, who soon laid what seemed at the time to be an irrefutable claim to the position.

His defense was passable, but Dozier's bat was so good in 2019 that considering anyone else for the hot corner made little sense. Playing in all but 23 of Kansas City's games, he hit 26 homers, drove in 84 runs, tied for the major league lead in triples with 10, doubled 29 times, and established career highs in average (.279), OBP (.348) and SLG (.522).

But that was then. Dozier isn't, and hasn't been, the batter he was four seasons ago. He displays occasional power, but he's managed only a mediocre .226/.297/.391 line, and drifted around the field defensively, since that breakout 2019 year.

Now, however, the Royals are returning Dozier to third, a move probably born more from hope he'll finally justify the four-year $25 million contract they surprisingly gifted him before the 2021 season than in any notion that he'd be better there than Bobby Witt Jr., Maikel Garcia, Nate Eaton, or others.

What will Dozier do with what may be his last opportunity to prove his worth to the Royals?

How FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference see Hunter Dozier's KC Royals season

Projections from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference don't bode well for Dozier in 2023. FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) predicts he'll hit .236 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs, and Baseball-Reference projects a 13-homer, 45-RBI, .228 year for the six-season Royal.

How will Hunter Dozier actually perform for the KC Royals in 2023?

It's difficult to quibble with FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference when it comes to Dozier. Little he's done at the plate since 2019 has been encouraging and he's shown few signs of ever rediscovering and recapturing for good the form he excited everyone with in 2019. Yes, he started well in the Cactus League this spring, but has cooled to .250 entering Friday's play.

So, expect not a stellar season from Dozier, but instead a performance consistent with the past three seasons. If he lasts the year, which isn't a given considering the club's excellent infield prospects, look for him to hit 10-15 homers, drive in around 50 runs, and hit in the .230-.240 range.

The likeliest outcome? Dozier probably doesn't hit well enough to justify playing every day and, by midseason, moves to the bench. And if things don't work out well there, expect the Royals to search hard for a trade partner, or DFA him.

Next. Look who's starting Opening Day. dark