Passing on pitcher, Royals select SS Dozier at No. 8
Kansas City banks on power with first pick despite pre-Draft speculation
KANSAS CITY -- Surprise: The Royals took shortstop Hunter Dozier as their first-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday night. He was the eighth pick overall.
Most analysts forecast the Royals would take a pitcher in the first round.
"It's always unpredictable," said general manager Dayton Moore.
Dozier, from Stephen F. Austin State in Texas, is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed batter who is projected by some observers to be a 20-to-25 home run hitter in the Major Leagues. This year in college, he hit .396 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs in 55 games.
"These are the guys that we go out and look for," said Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals' director of scouting. "They're big, they're athletic, they're physical. They've got a chance to put the ball into the seats. And he's got plus makeup. He exemplifies the type of player we need in this organization."
Goldberg said that Dozier has "big-time power" to all fields and is not just a pull hitter.
He wasn't among the most highly regarded Draft prospects, rating No. 46 on MLB.com's Top 100.
"He might not have been known publicly or nationally as much as some of the other players that have been talked about, but in our Draft room, he very much was," Goldberg said.
But that situation could work to the Royals' advantage monetarily. They also drafted left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea, the 34th choice overall but a high first-round possibility before a hip ailment surfaced. The Royals are expected to sign Dozier for less than the $3,137,800 pegged for his slot and apply some of the savings to boost Manaea's figure above the slotted $1,623,000.
"We have a pretty good feel of what the dollars are going to be," Moore said.
Dozier's advisor is Will McGuffey of Frontline Athletic Management. Manaea is represented by Scott Boras.
"We haven't decided on [a deal] yet, and I don't know when I'll know," Dozier said on a conference call.
The Royals' third choice in the Draft on Thursday night was another left-handed pitcher, Cody Reed, who went in the second round and was the 46th player chosen overall.
Their first-round pick of a slugger in Dozier caught the experts off guard.
Pre-Draft speculation had the Royals likely to take a pitcher -- Trey Ball, Braden Shipley and Phil Bickford were prominently mentioned. However, Ball was taken just prior to the Royals' pick by the Red Sox. Bickford went 10th to the Blue Jays and Shipley 15th to the Diamondbacks.
At Dozier's size, it's speculated that he might move to third base when he turns pro. Second base and outfield are also possibilities. But shortstop was his position at Stephen F. Austin.
"I know that's what he wants to play," Goldberg said. "We'll see how that plays out. He's gifted enough to move around."
At the Major League level, third base is occupied by Mike Moustakas, the Royals' first-round choice in 2007 and currently battling to emerge from a season-long slump. But that wasn't a factor in Dozier's selection, according to Moore.
"No, it has nothing to do with that," Moore said. "We took the player that we felt was going to be the most impactful guy for us."
He was followed by South Texas scout Mitch Thompson and cross-checked by Mitch Webster. The Royals further assessed Dozier at a workout last Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.
"We fell in love with the kid early, we tracked him all throughout the year," Goldberg said. "We got a chance to bring him into the stadium here at the end, and he kind of won us over even more."
Dozier got his first swings at Kauffman with its generous dimensions.
"It was a gorgeous stadium, it's definitely a big ballpark," Dozier said. "But I'll tell you, in BP, I hit a couple out, but it's a big ballpark and I'm going to have to grow and get stronger and get better every day so I can play in that stadium later on and become an even better power hitter."
Dozier, 21, was a Louisville Slugger All-American this year and was an All-Southland Conference selection for the second time. In 2012, he hit .357 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs.
His major at Stephen F. Austin was kinesiology.
"I have above a 3.0 GPA, and I've always been interested in kinesiology about how the body moves and works," he said. "If baseball doesn't work, I'd love to be a strength and conditioning coach for a Major League Baseball team."
Dozier was a multi-sport athlete at Denton (Texas) High School, combining pitching with shortstop for the baseball team and playing quarterback in football. But his football career was hampered by a broken collarbone in his junior year.
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m. CT. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at noon.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In the Pipeline: Dozier, if he signs, likely will start at one of the Royals' short-season Rookie classification teams at Idaho Falls or Burlington, N.C., according to J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager of scouting and player development. He'll probably play shortstop, at least initially.
"We all know we have depth at our shortstop position, but we believe in his ability to play defense," Picollo said. "And if you've got a guy that can help the club at shortstop, we need to know that. So I would anticipate that he'll get time at shortstop."
The Royals don't have a lot of depth at third base, so if he shifts to that position, he's likely to move up quickly.
Manaea apparently won't get situated in the system until the 2014 season because he's facing hip surgery. Reed, when he signs, will join one of the short-season Rookie clubs.