Hunter Dozier is the Real Test of the New Front Office

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Eldred is gone. Matheny is out,. Ryan O'Hearn, too. The whole minor league pitching development team will be overhauled as well. These are a given, and would be even if Dayton Moore were still in charge of the organization. Before his firing, we all assumed these changes would be made (or 3 out of 4, at least). For JJ Picollo to do this wouldn't necessarily separate him from his predecessor. In my estimation, the true diagnostic of our new "data-driven" overlord is how many plate appearances Hunter Dozier gets next year.

Dozier has been one of the worst players in MLB for the past two years. I know you all know this already, but it's still fun to note that he is second-worst by fWAR over that timespan, trailing only Miguel Cabrera. The interesting thing when looking at that list is that he has THE MOST plate appearances out of the first 30 entries. Cabrera isn't that far behind him, but he has anywhere between 300 to 700 more than others below him on the list. There's death, taxes, and the Royals continuing to pencil in the absolute worst players into their lineup, all because they were once successful for a short period of time, several seasons ago.

As Dozier compiled a second half of the 2022 season that was record-breakingly awful, I thought that his name would get added to the list of slam-dunk changes for the next season. But, over the last couple of weeks, he seems to have picked up his offensive performance. Now we get into the part where JJ Picollo has a choice to make.

One of the most frustrating things about the Royals front office for the past 16 years has been their confirmation bias when it comes to player performance. If a player they liked did something good, it was held up as evidence of their talent and ability, regardless of the fact that their overall performance was below average. Every time Ryan O'Hearn hit a home run--something that happened about once a month over the last three years--my Twitter feed was filled up with jokes about how much more playing time this would get him, even though his OPS+ hovered around 60. Luke Hochevar rode that 80-pitch complete game for four more years in the Royals rotation[1]. I'm sure you can come up with plenty of other examples.

And here we find ourselves, staring into the shimmering September fool's gold of Hunter Dozier OPS-ing 1.008 over his last 24 plate appearances. I don't want to see him on the roster next Spring. I think the probability of that is low, but it's an easy case to make. Not only does he hurt the team by having negative value, he hurts the team by taking playing time away from the kids and creating a logjam at 1B/DH. This is especially true if we think Nick Pratto can get his K% down and earns a trip back up to KC. Getting him out of town solves a lot of problems. Having him as a right-handed bat off the bench seems more likely, though. It makes sense for a lineup that projects to be lefty-heavy next year. And, as a fan, I'd be okay with that.

But if he's pulling in more than 150 PAs (which we'll call The O'Hearn Line), then Picollo has hired the wrong manager, and he has failed to convince his owner of the sunk-cost fallacy, and he has set the Royals on the wrong path heading into the future.

[1] - I will note that Hoch stayed around so long that I was very happy to see him become a successful part of the great 2013-2015 bullpen, and that he helped bring a championship to KC.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.