SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Hunter Dozier’s breakout 2019 season with the Royals included many impressive numbers.
Dozier had 29 doubles, 10 triples (which tied for the Major League lead), 26 homers, 84 RBIs and a .279/.348/.522 slash line.
But there was one number Dozier said was missing: stolen bases. He had just two last season, and he wants to add that element to his offensive game.
“I think if I’m an outfielder, which I will be this year, I definitely want to steal more bags," Dozier said. "Maybe not as important as a third baseman, but as an outfielder, yeah, I want to get more.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny believes Dozier certainly is capable.
“I do believe he’ll get more,” Matheny said. “You know the speed is there. Look at all the triples last year he had. That first [Spring Training] game here, he went first to third on a base hit to center and it wasn’t a gimme. He hit second base in stride. ... That guy is an athlete. That guy is the epitome of bigger, faster, stronger. He can really pick up speed when he gets going.”
Dozier said that he actually wanted to add stolen bases to his game last season.
“Last year was really the first year I thought about it,” Dozier said. “But I feel like last year because I was mostly hitting in front of [Jorge] Soler, when I got on first or second, I didn’t want to get thrown out.
“But I think [first-base coach] Rusty [Kuntz] is more like, ‘Hey, if we get on, let’s go.’”
Of course, stealing bases isn’t always about raw speed, unless you’re Adalberto Mondesi, whose 29.9 average sprint speed tied for ninth-fastest in baseball. Mondesi swiped 43 bags in just 102 games last season.
Dozier said that he will lean on Lopez and Merrifield, and Kuntz, for tips on getting good jumps and keys on pitchers.
Dozier's locker is next to Merrifield in Spring Training, and Dozier admits that he's always picking Merrifield’s brain.
“We talk a lot about the keys he has,” Dozier said. “Whit is really smart about that. Mondi is just pure speed. Nicky is fast, too. Whit is a little faster than me, but we’re kind of similar. I think at the start, he’s faster, but maybe I could catch him after a while. But I would have to rely on tips from Whit to be good at stealing bags.”
Matheny hopes Dozier indeed leans on Merrifield for advice.
“I love that season when Whit led the league [with 45 steals in 2018],” Matheny said. “Those steals were well-thought out. There was a lot of homework that went into it. If Hunter can learn from that, he could certainly add that element to his game.”