First-round pick Hunter Dozier passes the eye test and is eager to get started in Royals system
By JEFFREY FLANAGANFS Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The minute first-round draft pick
Hunter Dozier ducked into the
Royals' clubhouse on Monday, Royals players took one look and decided he was ready to play in the big leagues now.
Get a uniform on, son, they yelled.
"I appreciated that," Dozier said later, slightly embarrassed.
Indeed, Dozier does pass the eye test with his strapping, square-jawed, outside-linebacker build of 6 feet 4, 225 pounds.
Whether Dozier, 21, will put that physique to good baseball use we'll all find out soon enough. Dozier was in Kansas City and at Kauffman Stadium on Monday after signing – just four days after being the eighth overall pick – with the Royals for a bonus reported at $2.2 million.
And from here, Dozier, a shortstop, will report to the Royals' spring training site in Surprise, Ariz., for an introductory minicamp. After that, it's off to rookie short-season ball in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
"We're not going to rush him this summer," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "I know there's a history of moving college kids up in the system right away, but for now we'd just like to get him acclimated to our coaches and our system. He's already played a lot of games (at Stephen F. Austin)."
Even Dozier acknowledged it has been a whirlwind four days.
"It'll be nice just to catch my breath," Dozier said. "It's all been very exciting, but everything has gone really fast."
Dozier was in Kansas City with his parents – his mom, Kelly, and his dad, also named Kelly (just one of those great coincidences, Mom said) – who sat through Monday's press conference beaming.
"It's just a dream come true for all of us," Mom said. "For a mom, this is really something."
Include Dad in on that vibe as well.
"When he got drafted," he said, "I started crying. I lost it."
And that's understandable considering how closely Dad watched Hunter through Little League, then high school and college.
"But I never forced baseball on him or his older brother," Dad said. "I always told them both that if they wanted to play catch or something, I'd always be there. But I wasn't going to be dragging them to practice every day if they didn't want to play baseball."
Fortunately, Hunter didn't need much encouragement. He was a multi-sport star at Denton High School in Texas but always favored baseball, which led to him accepting a baseball scholarship to Stephen F. Austin.
It was in college where he began to separate from being just a solid player to being an absolute scout magnet that eventually put him on the Royals' radar.
"His name came across my desk very early in the process, and the more I heard about him from (director of scouting) Lonnie (Goldberg) and J.J., the more I got excited about him," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "I was really hoping we'd get a chance to draft him. You just never know how things might fall on draft day."
It fell perfectly for Dozier when the Royals went on the clock with the eighth pick.
"We didn't really hesitate," Picollo said. "He was our guy."
Dozier himself admits he didn't necessarily expect to be picked that high.
"I didn't expect it," he said, "but I was very happy about it."
Dozier had some indication he might go to the Royals. After all, he had been in Kansas City the week before at a pre-draft workout and took batting practice at The K.
Dozier also happily reports he was able to launch "a few" homers out of the spacious park.
"Hit some over the left field and left-center field (wall)," he said.
That home run power has been somewhat of a late gift in his young career, he said. Dozier hit 17 homers last season and hit .396 overall.
"Before last year, I was more of a doubles guy," he said. "But I started to find some power last year. Hopefully, that will continue. I think I can be a power guy."
Those words likely will serve as comforting to a Royals fan base starving for home run hitters to cheer for. The Royals are dead last in the American League in homers.
Just how soon might Dozier get to Kansas City to start reaching the fences?
"As soon as possible," he said, smiling.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.