Dozier finds success after early season turnaround


Minda Haas Kuhlmann

Hunter Dozier, third baseman, hits a ball in a game in Omaha, Nebraska. Dozier got off to a cold start in 2019, but turned his season around into one that out him into the MVP conversation.

Alex Burbidge, Reporter

The 2019 season was a strange one for Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier. After starting off the season in the midst of the American League MVP race, injuries curtailed his playing abilities until he was completely healthy. Despite the health issues, Dozier’s campaign provided much hope and enthusiasm toward the future.

Dozier’s career started out disappointing, given the No. 2 overall prospect ranking he was given going into the 2015 season. He made his Major League debut in Sept. 2016, only hitting to a .211 batting average and a mere .549 OPS. He was given much of the playing time following the trade of Mike Moustakas and improved little with the promotion. It appeared that his Major League career might be coming to a close.

However, Dozier appeared to have turned a corner after a 3-5 performance against the Seattle Mariners; though his batting average was a paltry .129 through the first nine games of the season, he hit the ball extremely hard, averaging an exit velocity well over 90 miles per hour. Over the course of the next 16 games, he went on a blistering tear, hitting .473 with an other-worldly 1.458 OPS and nine multi-hit games.

Not much seemed to have changed in Dozier’s swing. Instead, the balls he previously had hit straight into the gloves of fielders simply started to miss those gloves and hit the gaps of the outfield and go over walls for home runs, resulting in an insane slugging percentage that topped out at .713 after a two-triple game on April 27 against the Anaheim Angels.

Conversation began among Royals fans as to whether Dozier could challenge Mike Trout, Angels center fielder, for the elusive American League Most Valuable Player Award. After two months of play, the Royals third baseman led Trout in batting average and slugging percentage, and kept pace with him in RBI, home runs, and doubles (Trout led these categories 34-33, 13-11, and 14-12, respectively). However, Dozier’s MVP candidacy seemed to fizzle out once he was sidelined for nearly a month with a thorax injury, while Trout ran away and is essentially a lock to win for the third time in his career.

Though he cooled off a bit, he tied for the American League lead in triples with ten, and solidified his spot as the Royals’ third baseman for years to come. Where Dozier plays is more of a question; defensively, he was one of the worst third basemen in the league, accumulating -1.5 wins above replacement of the defensive side of the ball. He can’t take the designated hitter spot however, as that position is currently occupied by Jorge Soler, who hit 48 home runs in 2019.