The Hunter Dozier Era With the Royals Has Finally Come to a Merciful End

The Royals activated Nicky Lopez off the IL today, and in the process, they made a surprising major roster move.

The Royals designating Dozier for assignment wasn’t exactly a “surprising” move in the grand scheme of things.

In 29 games and 91 plate appearances this season, Dozier was not only hitting .183, but he was posting a wRC+ of 50 and producing an overall fWAR of -0.3, according to Fangraphs. Over the past three years in Kansas City, Dozier has accumulated a -2.4 fWAR in 208 games played.

That’s a far cry from the guy who produced a 3.5 fWAR in 183 games in 2019 and 2020 and earned a multi-year extension in the process.

Safe to say, the 31-year-old Stephen F. Austin product and former 8th overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft failed to not just live up to his draft hype, but the extension he signed prior to the 2021 season. And because of that accumulation of career disappointment, he has been the source of a lot of Royals fans’ frustration over the past two years, which led to today being a big “celebratory” day on Royals’ Twitter and Reddit.

I am not sure I can necessarily go down that route of glee specifically, though JJ Picollo and the Royals made the right move by parting with Dozier this season sooner rather than later.

With the exception of his comments during the Royals’ “vaccine-gate” fiasco last July (he was one of the 10 unvaccinated players who didn’t make the trip to Toronto), Dozier has been a model teammate and citizen for the Kansas City Royals. Even though he has failed to do much damage at the plate or possess much value in the field, he was widely respected and beloved in the clubhouse by players and coaches alike.

That was evident in manager Matt Quatraro’s pregame interview, as he talked about how tough the decision was for the Royals’ organization as a whole:

Dozier most likely will be in another organization soon, even if he clears waivers and is eligible to return to the organization on a Minor League assignment.

This afternoon, shortly after the Lopez and Dozier transaction announcement, the Royals also sent a “farewell” Tweet that pretty much seemed to seal the deal on his future in Kansas City.

So in this post, let’s take a look at what went right for Dozier, what went wrong, and why the Royals needed to make this decision on May 22nd, even with Dozier having one more year left on his deal after this season.

Why the Dozier Extension Wasn’t the Worst Thing at the Time

When the Royals inked Dozier to a four-year, $25 million extension prior to the start of the 2021 season, the thinking by the Royals front office was actually wise.

Dayton Moore and the Royals were betting that Dozier was coming into his own as a hitter, and at the very least, the four-year extension would give the Royals a cost-controlled player who wouldn’t break the bank if he broke out.

After the 2019 season, it seemed like Dozier was on the verge of being a corner infielder that the Royals could depend on for years to come.

Dozier’s season in 2019 really was legitimate on an offensive end in many aspects.

In 139 games and 586 plate appearances, he hit 26 home runs, collected 84 RBI, hit .279, and posted a .360 wOBA, 123 wRC+, and 2.8 fWAR. While it’s easy to focus on the rough past three seasons with Dozier, Royals fans shouldn’t forget that Dozier was a runner-up in the All-Star voting race at third base that summer.

Dozier was also part of a crazy trio of Royals hitters (including Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield) that also collected 10 triples EACH in 2019. That was the first time that had happened since 1984.

When translating his fWAR into dollars that season via Fangraphs, Dozier’s 2019 season was worth $22.4 million alone. Add that with a 2020 season that was worth $5.4 million on an fWAR-to-dollars end (and during a shortened season nonetheless), and it makes sense why Moore handed out that extension to Dozier when he did.

The Royals didn’t really need Dozier to reproduce his 2019 campaign over the course of his extension, honestly.

His 2020 was still pretty productive, as he produced a 103 wRC+, .326 wOBA, and 0.7 fWAR in 44 games and 186 plate appearances. The power regressed a bit that year (.165 ISO), but he also produced a career-high 0.56 BB/K ratio that season.

That strong BB/K ratio made Royals fans hopeful that Dozier was maturing in his approach, and that would produce long-term results, even if the power showcased from 2019 didn’t return.

What Went Wrong for Dozier

If he had produced those kinds of numbers from the COVID-shortened season in 2021 and 2022, it’s likely that Dozier would still be a Royal today, instead of a likely free agent in the coming days.

Instead, the BB/K ratios regressed (0.28 in 2021; 0.27 in 2022), the power remained inconsistent (.179 ISO in 2021; .152 ISO in 2022), and the overall numbers plunged as a result, which ultimately led to him being designated for assignment by the Royals.

In 2021, Dozier produced an 81 wRC+ and a .293 wOBA. in 2022, he saw some slight improvement, but his overall production was still below average, as evidenced by a 90 wRC+ and .298 wOBA. A big reason why his lines plummeted over the past two seasons was due to his free-swinging approach at the plate during those past two seasons that resulted in a lot of chasing, and consequently, a lot of whiffs.

After only producing an O-Swing percentage of 27.4 in 2020, a career-best, Dozier saw those O-Swing rates jump up to 34.1 and 36.3 percent over the next two years, respectively. Furthermore, his swinging-strike rates jumped up from 12.3 percent in 2020 to 14.8 percent in 2021 and 14 percent in 2022, both the highest marks of his career.

Dozier started to show signs of being a patient hitter in 2020, which was expected to complement his power and surprising speed. Unfortunately, he began pressing after signing the extension, and his swing rates jumped up to 48.8 percent and 50.5 in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

That kind of approach isn’t a recipe for success, especially for a hitter who’s produced a contact rate under 70 percent in two of the last four seasons.

Granted, the former Royals first-round pick tried to revamp his approach in Spring Training under the new regime. However, after a slow start in April, it proved to be too little and too late, as Anne Rogers of wrote about today in her article about Dozier’s DFA.

Dozier still proved to be a valuable clubhouse leader for the Royals, reportedly, during this rough April and May, and that’s not necessarily bad on a club starved for veteran leadership (Nicky referred to Dozier as the “dad” in the clubhouse at the Royals Rally).

However, with Nicky back, the younger Maikel Garcia needing at-bats, and Matt Duffy proving to be a better platoon option, it seemed like Dozier was the odd man out on the Royals’ 26-man roster, which explains why he also only played in nine games in May (as I wrote about yesterday).

Remembering Dozier’s Time in Kansas City

Dozier will always be remembered for two things:

1.) Being drafted as an under-slot Top-10 pick so the Royals could draft Sean Manaea later and sign him to an over-slot deal in the 2013 MLB Draft.

2.) Struggling to live up to the four-year extension he signed prior to the 2021 season.

That said, if anything, Dozier should be remembered as one of the pieces of the Royals’ failed “Process 2.0” under Moore.

Back in 2019, the Royals seemed primed to build their core around Dozier, Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Salvador Perez, and Hunter Dozier. When the Royals acquired Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Benintendi in 2021, Moore thought those two would be the missing pieces that the lineup core needed to take the next step.

And unfortunately, Royals fans know how that turned out.

Soler cooled down and was eventually traded to Atlanta in 2021 after they failed to come to an extension after his sensational 2019 season. Mondesi couldn’t stay healthy. Whit started to regress, and eventually wanted out in 2022, after it was clear the Royals were rebuilding again. Salvy stayed and signed an extension prior to 2021, but after Salvy, the “core” Moore was depending on failed to live up to the hype and Moore was eventually let go in the process.

One has to wonder what would’ve happened to Moore if Dozier, one of the key pieces of that core, turned out as expected.

What if Dozier had another 25-HR, 2.5+ fWAR season in 2021 and/or 2022? What if the pandemic had not happened in 2020, and Dozier was able to build on that momentum over a full season? Would Dozier and Soler have become the KC “Bash Brothers”? Would Mondesi have stayed healthy? Would Whit have changed his tune and become a “team player” instead of leaving Kansas City with a complicated legacy?

There are a lot of what if’s during that 2018-2022 time range, and Dozier is perhaps the player of that group who sticks out the most, as he lasted the longest of that bunch that was expected to help turn around the Royals.

Dozier’s time is done though, and as a result, the core group is pretty much gone as well, with the exception of Salvy.

Dozier gave it all in his Kansas City and he was a good dude who was mostly well-liked by players, coaches, and fans alike.

That said, his tenure needed to end, and not just for Dozier, but for the Royals so they can finally shed the ghosts of that failed rebuild from 2018 to 2022.

Photo Credit: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images


5 thoughts on “The Hunter Dozier Era With the Royals Has Finally Come to a Merciful End

  1. These are always weird situations. I wanted Dozier gone long ago for the good of the team because he wasn’t producing and didn’t seem to have much of a future. He was taking playing time away from guys with more potential that the Royals needed to evaluate. And while I think it’s cool the Royals FO has a reputation around the league for being genuinely good, caring people, I’m not sure how much difference it actually make when it comes to retaining guys, signing FAs, etc. I’ve long thought they would benefit from a slightly colder approach- don’t have to be absolutely ruthless, but you get the idea. But while I think it was the right decision and long overdue, I still have a hard time feeling giddy when someone loses their job. Just my take..

    And one other thing that bugged me about Dozier. He had the worst walkup song ever. Granted, I admit I’m not a fan of Christian rock/country or whatever genre it fell into, but it wasn’t even that- it was so melancholy and anti-everything a walkup song should be. Yes, I know a walkup song ultimately doesn’t matter, and any player actually dependent on one is in big trouble already, but it just felt like he was setting the wrong tone every time he stepped to the plate. Again, small insignificant gripe that is more my problem than his or anybody else’s, so why not share it here?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For sure and I agree with a lot of your points. It was obvious going into this offseason that he just wasn’t a fit anymore, and I truly think the org was doing all they could to try and trade him. However, when he got off to a slow start in April, that pretty much sealed the deal. By May, he wasn’t really blocking anyone as Garcia and Duffy were getting more playing time than him. That’s why I felt this Dozier situation was different than a Santana or Soler situation. At least those guys were still playing everyday prior to them getting traded. Dozier wasn’t, and now we see why.

      I think that’s an interesting point about the FO being genuinely good but as you said, I wonder if there’s a balance. I think there’s a bit more of that with Sherman/Picollo than Glass/Moore. I don’t think Moore pulls the trigger on a move like this, or at least not this year, and same with Glass. For as much grief as we give Sherman, he is willing to eat a contract if necessary. It doesn’t mean he’s the perfect owner, but I think it does show that his threshold for mediocirty is lower than Glass. I think if the Royals aren’t making major progress in 2024, we could see some more changes. But I agree with you, I’m not rejoicing over a move like this like some are doing on social media. It sucks that it didn’t work out, but I’m glad it’s over because he doesn’t have to be this fanbase’s whipping boy for every little thing that goes wrong anymore, which I’m sure is a relief to him.

      And I actually agree and think the walkup song was a big reason why his situation was so complicated. I’ve been a baseball fan all my life and have never seen a player do that (i.e. have a Christian walkup song). I think that built into the predisposition that Dayton favored “Overly Christian” players than actually good ones. I am not saying anything about Doz’s faith. I think it’s great that he has that relationship with God and is eager to express it. That said, I think the walkup song and his beliefs only fueled the fire, especially after the vaccine fiasco where he leaned on those beliefs for his reasoning. In the grand scheme of things, was his walkup song the worst thing? Of course not, but it kind of put gasoline on the fire for Royals fans who were frustrated with Dozier and Moore even more, unfortunately, whether that is fair or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely. Walkup songs don’t really matter in terms of performance, and they’re a miniscule part of the big picture, but it probably didn’t do him or Moore any favors with the many people who criticized Moore’s priorities in building a roster and the types of players supposedly favored, whether that was true or overblown.

    Although, I do want to reiterate that I don’t care what religion a player follows. All that matters is they can play- although I’d prefer the guys I root for generally not be monsters, they don’t have to be saints either. My problem with the song wasn’t that it was Christian- maybe I shouldn’t have even mentioned that part of it- but with the tone of the song. I don’t listen to Christian music, but surely there has to be something in the Christian rock genre that is more upbeat, you know, like a walkup song should be. I mean, I love Elliott Smith, but I’m not picking his music to get me hyped up to bat. Again, small-time problem that shouldn’t matter anyway. Just something I always noticed about Dozier, and considering the criticisms surrounding him and Moore that you pointed out, perhaps not totally insignificant.

    Liked by 1 person

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