The Kansas City Royals were pleased with the numbers Hunter Dozier put up this summer. The 22-year-old infielder hit .308/.397/.495 between rookie-level Idaho Falls and Low-A Lexington. Given that many considered Dozier an overdraft, the Royals also likely were relieved.
First-year stats aren’t all that meaningful, but Dozier’s performance helped validate the decision to take him with the eighth-overall pick out of Stephen F. Austin State University. What the 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed hitter needs to do next is continue to swing a productive-enough bat to justify his move to third base. Drafted as a shortstop, Dozier saw the majority of his time at the hot corner after signing for an under-slot $2.2 million.
Dozier talked about his approach to the game — and his position in the future — near the end of his first professional season.
Dozier on his first impressions of pro ball: “It’s been pretty much what I expected. There are the long bus rides and everything. As far as how well I’ve been doing, there are parts of my game I wish were better. But overall, I think I’m having a pretty good first season. I just hope I can keep improving every day. During instructs, I can work on things I saw over these first few months of pro ball.
“You’re constantly working on every aspect of your game. Hitting is one. There are little adjustments you make. I want to work on getting stronger. Defensively, I want to work on my quickness and get a little better range. I’m taking a lot of reps at third.”
On shortstop, third base and positional value: “I honestly don’t know what the plans are. Right now I’m playing a lot of third, but that could change. Wherever they want me to play, I’ll work hard there.
“At third base, they really rely on you getting a lot of extra-base hits, hitting for power and driving in runs. At shortstop, it’s more about getting on base and how good you are defensively. But it honestly doesn’t matter where they put me. If it’s at shortstop — I would be equally happy at third — I’ll be happy. It’s wherever they need me. My main goal is to make it to Kansas City.
“Coming into the draft, a lot of teams said they were going to keep me at short, and if they needed me to make a transition to third, then they will. That’s what most of the teams told me. It’s what Kansas City told me.”
On being drafted by the Royals; “I went to their pre-draft workout and we talked a lot after that. We talked about different scenarios, so I had a pretty good feeling they were really interested. I felt there was a strong possibility they’d be taking me.
“It’s hard to say who would have taken me [had it not been the Royals]. My agent did a lot of that stuff for me and I didn’t want him to tell me much. He told me there were some teams looking at me later in the first round.”
On his hitting approach: “Regardless of where I play, I’m going to have the same approach I’ve always had. That’s to be aggressive and look for the pitch I want to hit. I consider myself an extra-base guy, a power hitter.
“As a player, you’re going to consistently keep hitting — keep working on hitting — and making small adjustments throughout your career. I’ll be working on hitting every day for the rest of time I play baseball.”
On the impact football has had on his baseball career: “Football really got me into the weight room and opened my eyes to how important working out is. Also, being a quarterback, I was a leader on the football field and that kind of transferred over to the baseball field. Those were both positives.
“A negative is that I had a football injury that took me out of my junior year of baseball. Being a high school quarterback [in Denton, Texas] also takes a lot of your time. In Texas, football is the main sport, so I didn’t really get to practice baseball as much as I wanted to, or as much as I needed.”
On wanting to play every day: “I pitched in high school, and pitched in relief in college, but I’ve always wanted to be an infielder and play every day. I love hitting. I’ve always known I wanted to be a position player. Whether that’s going to be as a shortstop or as a third baseman, I don’t care. I just want to play.”
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