The Kansas City Royals have promoted third base prospect Hunter Dozier to the major league roster for the September stretch run. Dozier was one of the bright spots from the Royals farm system this season. Let's take a look.
Seven months ago things didn't look so hot for Dozier: the 2013 first round pick from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas suffered through miserable 2014 and 2015 seasons. The pre-season take from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 210 DOB: August 22, 1991
2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B-
Wow, what a mess. Dozier’s scouting report from 2014 (He still drew some walks, but his strikeout rate spiked to over once per game and TL observers were not impressed with his swing mechanics or general approach, noting serious problems against breaking balls and change-ups, issues which were not apparent in the Carolina League. Even his defense was less impressive than it was in High-A, with an elevated error rate and disappointing range) didn’t change much in 2015. He got to his power a little more often and his defense was a little bit better, but the significant problems with his swing and general approach are still there. His platoon splits, home/road data, and month-to-month performance trends contain no hidden positives and Texas League observers didn’t see anything to make me think that will change. If not for his first round pedigree, he would be seen as a fringe prospect at best. Grade C.
Dozier was a completely different player in 2016, hitting a combined .296/.366/.533 between Double-A and Triple-A with 44 doubles, 23 homers, 54 walks, and 123 strikeouts in 486 at-bats. This is the guy the Royals drafted back in 2013, not the imposter from '14 and '15.
Back in late May, our own Wayne Cavadi examined Dozier's fast start, noting changes in his swing mechanics compared to 2015.
He has a simple approach in the box. One thing you can tell he has fixed is that his stance isn’t as wide. The top video is from last season and the bottom video is from this season. . . He stands pretty straight, with not much of a bend in his knees. His leg kick is slight, but consistent, which is also a change. In the past it seemed that he would have different approaches in his kick, some long, some short, and some inward.
Dozier has maintained those changes all season. Texas League and Pacific Coast League observers also noted that he had an easier time managing breaking balls; he was also much less vulnerable to being tied up on inside fastballs compared to last year. In other words, he looked like the complete hitter he was in college, not the guy who had trouble clearing the Mendoza Line in 2015.
Dozier split his playing time between third base and the corner outfield spots this year. His outfield range is mediocre but he has a strong arm. His third base glovework took a step forward this season, rebounding from difficulties in '14 and '15. This may be a reflection of greater confidence, in the sense that he wasn't carrying worries about his hitting into the field.
At age 25 he's not young as prospects go and we'll have to see how the Royals will get him into the lineup, but it is fair to say that Dozier saved his career.