Is Hunter Dozier’s Time With the Royals Coming to an End Soon?

In a surprising move on Saturday, the Royals announced via Twitter that they have signed former Atlanta and Philadelphia utility infielder Johan Camargo to a Minor League contract:

The 29-year-old infielder didn’t produce much at the plate in his lone season with the Phillies in 2022. In 52 games and 166 plate appearances, Camargo produced a 74 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR, which was mostly fueled by his above-average defensive output, especially at third base, according to Fangraphs. In 90.2 innings at the hot corner, he produced a +3 DRS (defensive runs saved), a 9.2 UZR/150 innings, and +2 OAA (outs above average).

The Royals currently have a hole at third base, and even though it’s unlikely that Camargo will earn the full-time gig in Spring Training, it is possible that he could find a part-time role that could see him play a majority of his innings at that position in 2023.

While Camargo’s spot at the big league level is not guaranteed, his “expected” presence at Spring Training could put further pressure on Hunter Dozier, who may be seeing his final days in Kansas City sooner rather than later.


Dozier’s Hazy Outlook for Playing Time in 2023

When the Royals signed Dozier to a multi-year extension after the 2020 season, it seemed like a wise move at the time.

In 139 games in 2019, he produced a 2.8 fWAR and hit 26 home runs, collected 84 RBI, and generated a wRC+ of 123. The defense at third wasn’t great (7.9 runs below average, according to Fangraphs), but he certainly showed enough with the bat that season to make up for his defensive inefficiencies.

During the COVID-shortened season of 2020, regression affected Dozier, as his wRC+ declined to 103 and his wOBA went from .360 in 2019 to .326 in 2020. That being said, COVID and various nagging injuries affected him that season and his expected numbers (.331 xwOBA) hinted that Dozier was better than the surface-level metrics indicated.

Unfortunately, the past two seasons have not been kind to Dozier. While he has been affected by minor injuries (primarily a wrist issue in 2021), he also has simply failed to produce at the plate and in the field for the Royals in 2021 and 2022.

Over the past two years, Dozier has accumulated a -2.0 fWAR in 1,043 plate appearances. When compared to the two-year data of Camargo and Nicky Lopez, infield utility options who could fill in at third base in 2023, Dozier’s profile is the least impressive of the bunch.

Dozier does have the most power upside of the bunch, as his ISO is 102 points higher than Lopez’s and 94 points higher than Camargo’s. Furthermore, his wRC+ since 2021 is slightly higher than Lopez’s (two points) and considerably better than Camargo’s (14 points).

On the other hand, Dozier is also going to be making $7.5 million this season and $9.25 million in 2024, according to Roster Resource payroll data. That’s considerably more than what Lopez ($3.7 million) and possibly Camargo would make if he makes the MLB roster (usually MiLB deals transition to around the $3 million range if they make the team).

Safe to say that’s underwhelming value for the Royals. Additionally, Dozier’s zone wOBA chart data over the past two years (2021 and 2022) doesn’t seem to be encouraging much hope either.

(Scroll left for 2021-2022; Scroll right for 2019-2020).

With Camargo and Lopez on the roster and rookie Nate Eaton seeing some time at the hot corner last season, it seems like Dozier’s time at third base should be over in 2023, especially with an analytically-minded coaching staff under first-year manager Matt Quatraro.

So does Dozier fit in at all on this Royals roster?

There’s a possibility one could argue that Dozier could be a right-handed platoon bat at first who could give Vinnie Pasquantino days off at the position (Vinnie would transition to DH or simply take a day on the bench). Dozier’s career OAA at first base is +3, which is his best mark for any position he has played in his career (including the outfield), according to Fangraphs.

In addition, Dozier did produce a better mark against left-handed pitchers in 2022, as he produced a .326 wOBA and 110 wRC+ against lefties last year. That was much better than the .287 wOBA and 82 wRC+ he produced against righties, according to Fangraphs splits.

His wOBA zone chart also demonstrates how more effective Dozier was in 2022 in different areas of the strike zone against lefties than righties as well. (Scroll right for the LHP chart; Scroll left for the RHP chart).

The best-case scenario for Dozier would be a bench platoon bat who could fill in at first on those rare Pasquantino days off. That said, a lot also depends on how Nick Pratto fares in Spring Training.

If Pratto does well and earns a spot on the roster, Dozier’s outlook at the first base looks even grimmer, especially since Pratto will get regular playing time at DH/1B (and maybe a corner outfield spot) if he is called up on Opening Day.


What Will the Royals Do with Dozier?

Rumors have circulated this offseason that JJ Picollo and the Royals front office have been actively shopping both Michael A. Taylor and Dozier this winter in trade talks.

Last week, rumors broke that the Twins inquired about acquiring Taylor as outfield insurance for Byron Buxton and Max Kepler (who have often been injured the past couple of years), but the Royals’ asking price of pitcher Josh Winder was much too high.

In addition to that Taylor trade news from last week, it also seems to be buzzing that the Royals have some other trade talks in the works, perhaps in an effort to clear room for the recently-acquired Aroldis Chapman to be added to the 40-man roster.

Could Dozier be part of one of those trades? Would any team take on Dozier after two sub-par years and him being owed over $17 million over the next two years?

Those are going to be crucial questions to answer for Dozier and the Royals, especially with only 33 days remaining until the first Spring Training game.

Regardless, it seems like Dozier’s time is dwindling in Kansas City.

At this point, he doesn’t really fit anywhere defensively, and his bat simply doesn’t have the value to supersede those defensive shortcomings anymore. If he were a 20+ HR hitter, I could see Dozier finding a rotating OF/DH spot, much like Jorge Soler in Miami. That being said, that’s harder to do for a hitter who has only hit 28 home runs over the past two seasons.

I don’t know if Dozier will be traded or DFA’d before Spring Training (though the odds may have gone up now) or if something will happen during the season (which is likely if Pratto begins 2023 in Triple-A Omaha).

But it’s feeling more unlikely that Dozier will be a part of this Royals squad by Opening Day in 2024…

And that may be good for both the Royals and Dozier, as he will get a fresh start, hopefully, in another MLB organization.

Photo Credit: Duane Burleson/Getty Images

7 thoughts on “Is Hunter Dozier’s Time With the Royals Coming to an End Soon?

  1. I was really hopeful Dozier would pan out a few years back, but it just hasn’t worked. Although I’ve never understood some of the fan vitriol toward him. Same with O’Hearn. Both seem like decent enough guys, and while you can criticize their performances, which is totally fair, some people act like they’re terrible people for not voluntarily giving up their roster spot. If you’re going to be annoyed, be annoyed at the front office (& to be fair, many people are) for hanging onto them for so long and constructing a roster that often makes no sense at all. Hopefully, things are changing. We’ll see if J.J. can pull the trigger and move on from Dozier, because it’s hard to see a spot for him on a Royals team that works. And for his part, I do feel like he’s got the potential to resurrect his career with the right fresh start.

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    1. Yeah I don’t think you can point the finger on Dozier for him getting that deal. He was good in ’19 and not bad in ’20. What’s he supposed to do, not accept the money? It certainly didn’t help though when he was one of the 10 unvaccinated players, and didn’t help his case with his explanation which only made things worse (much like Whit).

      I think in the right spot or situation, Dozer could at least be league average. But as you said, I’m just not sure what his role could be on a team that is pretty flush at the positions he’s okay at (1B and DH). The hard part will be convincing a team to take on the money, which probably means that the Royals will have to eat some in any potential deal. Sherman has proven he’s open to that (i.e. the Santana deal), but Santana was in last year of deal while Dozier still has one more guaranteed one to go.

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      1. I almost forgot that he was part of the whole unvaxxed fiasco. Yeah, that definitely didn’t help anything. Kinda goes to show you how irrelevant he had become by that point. Most of my disappointment and frustration was directed at other players.

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  2. […] While Nicky shouldn’t be the everyday third baseman by any means, he could slot in there on an occasional basis and give the Royals some stability on the defensive end (which could help Witt out as well). But if he’s gone, then the Royals’ options could be new acquisition Johan Camargo (who has to earn a spot still on the 40-man roster), Samad Taylor, Eaton, and maybe Hunter Dozier, with the latter not being ideal, as I have discussed recently on this blog. […]

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  3. […] While Eaton can play third base, Eaton’s skill set would be better utilized in the outfield. As for Dozier, while being traded (or released) would be the preference, his ideal position should be first base in a platoon role when the Royals are facing left-handed starting pitchers. He has shown he cannot handle the third-base position defensively. […]

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