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Could Hunter Dozier make a run at AL MVP?

Move over, Mike Trout.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll get this obligatory part out of the way. Man, the Royals are frustrating to watch right now. They’re bad, and they’re losing in a lot of bad ways. But there are some really good things going on, too. I want to talk about Dozier. Dozier, Dozier, Dozier.

In the off-season, you can find several instances of me arguing that the Royals should be trying to sign Machado. I wrote a fan post about it before I became an official writer Kevin, I argued for it in several comment sections, I discussed it with other fans. My opinion was that Dozier was not going to figure out how to hit at the Major League level (despite the fact that he was decent in the last month or two of last season) and that signing Machado would take care of third base, a position of relative weakness in the organization, for years to come.

In short, it was less about wanting Machado on the Royals, and more about wanting to find someone OTHER than Dozier to play third for the Royals. I shook my head in disgust when Machado signed, then Arenado got an extension, and hearing that Rendon was discussing an extension (both would have been FAs after this year).

It’s still early, but I’m willing to say I was wrong. Really wrong. I’m sorry.

Not to say that I think Hunter Dozier will, over the next several years, hit better than Manny Machado (or Nolan Arenado, or Anthony Rendon). He likely won’t. But I was wrong in thinking that Dozier couldn’t become an every day player with above-average offense.

Dozier is raking right now. He started off slow, but over the first week he had a .083 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). The league average is right around .300. He was hitting the ball hard, but right at people. It was always going to change, and boy did it change.

As of this writing, Dozier is tied for the 2nd-most valuable position player in the American League at 2.0 fWAR. To give some context, 2 fWAR is an “average” player over the course of a full season (roughly 150 games/600 plate appearances). The player who is in first is of course Mike Trout, at 2.2 fWAR.

Telling is Dozier’s wRC+ stat. This stat compares offensive production and adjusts for ballpark factors, among other things. 100 is average. Dozier is leading the American League significantly at 191. Next, Trout, is at 174.

I keep waiting for him to fall off the cliff, and each day he does something good. He’s walking, he’s not striking out much, he’s hitting the ball hard. It’s starting to get late enough into the season where “small sample size” is less and less of a reason to doubt production. There comes a point where you have to start asking yourself “Is this really who he is?” And, while I’m not 100% convinced that Dozier is the best hitter in the league, I think I’m ready to say he is in the conversation.

The metrics don’t like his defense, and there has been some chatter on the interwebs about him potentially making a move to the outfield where his above average speed can play up. I don’t know if that will ever happen but the Royals do have some history of taking guys from 3rd base and turning them into outfielders.

That all being said, it IS still somewhat early, but right now Hunter Dozier is putting up MVP-type numbers. It’s never too early to try to give Royals fans something fun to look for when watching the games, especially in a season like this. Right now Hunter Dozier is must-see baseball.