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Hunter Dozier: Struggles

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Through 39 games in AA Hunter Dozier's line sits at .211/.284/.320. Dozier perhaps hasn't seen this sustained level of poor results in his pro career.

In his first 20 games in Advanced Rookie League Idaho Falls Dozier hit .309/.374/.469 to start his pro career. After 40 games he was hitting .288/.381/.497 showing his normal penchant for walking with a 22:24 K:BB ratio.

Dozier was then promoted to Lexington for their playoff run and saw success there over 15 games as he slashed .327/.373/.436 with a 3:5 K:B. Dozier would then go back to IDF for more work and dominate for the final week of games.

Clearly he was too good for Idaho Falls and with his brief succesfull stint in Lexington the brass decided that High-A Wilmington would be his starting point for his first full pro season.

Wilmington is one of the most pitcher friendly parks in all of professional baseball (there is a dang highway in left field) and the Carolina League is home to many other pitcher friendly stadiums. It was here that Dozier would see his first true struggle in pro baseball. In his first 20 games he would hit .236/.333/.292 with a 17:8 K:B and over his first 39 games he hit .230/.352/.304. From that point on Dozier would become another player as he would then go on to hit .393/.467/.618 19:12 K:B over his next 26 games on his way to a promotion to AA.

Dozier would have a good first week in his AA debut .333/.333/.367 but he would primarily hit for singles over that span and his K:B would plummet to 11:0.

Over his next 32 games Dozier hit .179/.273/.308. The K:B would get better at 34:15 and a 11 BB%.

Perhaps Dozier was pressing at the plate as strike zone issues have never been a problem for him in college or his pro career. He's also had to suffer through a .283 BABIP in Northwest Arkansas including a .225 BABIP over that earlier mentioned 32 game span.

Thanks to Minor League Central we have plate discipline metrics for AA and we can dive into Dozier's. Now there is a caveat for minor league plate discipline numbers. Each team has their own stringer for pitches that inputs data into Gameday and they can be very subjective at times. It isn't as exact as MLB plate discipline data as we have the wonders of Pitch F/X, Hit F/X, and multiple cameras. As a general thumb it's really only worthwhile to use plate discipline numbers across players on the same team.

I say that because I'm going to break that rule and show you Texas League plate discipline figures. So we'll just use Northwest Arkansas' team average as the true benchmark and  the league rate as the secondary.

Stat Dozier NWA Texas League
Str% 62.9 63 63.2
Swng% 45.8 45.6 45.5
Con% 69.3 77.5 78.6
Whf% 14.1 10.3 9.7
O-Swng% 19.8 13.1 15.9
Z-Swng% 68.2 69.8 68.5
O-Con% 27.6 43.6 46.4
Z-Con% 79.7 82.2 84.4
Zone% 53.7 57.4 56.3
SwStr% 72.9 72.4 72

Couple things come out here. Dozier is making a significant amount of less contact. That's likely due to chasing 6% more outside pitches. This is further exacerbated by the fact that when he's swinging at outside pitches he not making nearly as much contact as the team average. There's also a little difference in contact made on pitches in the zone.

Dozier doesn't struggle with slow bat speed or making contact overall in a scouting sense, but in AA he's struggling with not swinging at outside pitches (which leads to his contact rate being lower) and when he does swing he's not making contact. He's swinging at pitches he really shouldn't be swinging at all at (not borderline balls/strikes but obvious balls).

This helps drive the numbers behind the fluctuation in his K/BB% from A+ to AA.

A+: 21 K% - 13 BB%

AA: 27.8 K% - 9.3 BB%

He's drawing walks at an above team average rate (Dozier 9.3 BB% - NWA 8.5 BB%) and above the Major League average (7.8 BB%).

Let's take a look at Dozier vs other top 3B prospects who've recently played in AA: Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, and Garin Cecchini.

Bryant biggest tool flaw his and question on his Major League ceiling will be his plate discipline. Bryant has a good handle on the stick and good bat speed, but he'll sell out for power at time and chase pitches.

Gallo is similar to Bryant with plate discipline questions but on a much larger scale. Gallo sells out for power on almost every swing he takes and it's a risk reward profile as seen by his career 33.8 K% and 99 home runs by the age of 20.5.

Cecchini is almost the exact opposite of Gallo and a little bit of Bryant. Cech is all plate discipline with a little power. Somewhat akin to Dozier. Cecchini has always had good walk rates in the minors and makes high contact. You'll see mostly doubles power out of him, but his pride is getting on base. Just because they are almost unbelievable here is Cecchini's K% and BB%:

Lg BB% K% OBP
A- 12.8 14.3 0.398
A 11.6 17.1 0.494
Rookie 20.5 16.9 0.434
A+ 16.4 13 0.469
AA 17.3 17.6 0.42
AAA 8.8 21.6 0.315
Career 16.9 15.4 0.445

Truly an OBP machine.

After writing all that about Cecchini I just remembered Portland didn't have plate discipline tracked for them last year so just consider this your annual tidbit about Garin Cecchini.

So instead of Cecch let's sub in DJ Peterson. Long term he's probably a first baseman but there is a non-zero chance he sticks at third.

Peterson is very similar to Dozier, but he has more raw power that should translate to home runs than doubles like Dozier's case. Both are very natural hitters with easy swings that generate good contact which should help the raw power play.

*Note* I question some of the plate discipline figures for Peterson, but they aren't all extremely outrageous.

Stat Dozier Bryant Gallo Peterson
Swng% 45.8 47.1 54.4 44.9
Con% 69.3 68.8 56.3 77.2
Whf% 14.1 14.7 23.8 10.2
O-Swng% 19.8 16 22.4 7.1
Z-Swng% 68.2 75.8 82.2 67.2
O-Con% 27.6 21.1 39 28.6
Z-Con% 79.7 78.1 60.4 80.3
Zone% 53.7 51.9 53.5 62.9
SwStr% 72.9 78.9 85.1 68.5

Rankings:

Con% Whf% O-Swng% Z-Swng% O-Con% Z-Con% SwStr%
Peterson Peterson Peterson Gallo Gallo Peterson Peterson
Dozier Dozier Bryant Bryant Peterson Dozier Dozier
Bryant Bryant Dozier Dozier Dozier Bryant Bryant
Gallo Gallo Gallo Peterson Bryant Gallo Gallo

So there are times when Hunter Dozier isn't being the Hunter Dozier he should be. At times he'll swing like he's Joey Gallo or Kris Bryant, but he doesn't have the thunder necessary that warrants that aggressiveness.

Seems like the key for Dozier going forward is laying off outside pitches. He makes good contact on pitches in the zone and has displayed the ability to walk, even in AA where he's struggled, but he's chasing pitches right now and that coupled with his low BABIP are driving down his results.