Prized prospect Starling to join 2013 first-round Draft pick at instructional league
KANSAS CITY -- Shortstop Hunter Dozier, the Royals' top pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, is progressing quite nicely in his first professional season according to assistant general manager of scouting and player development J.J. Picollo.
Entering Thursday, Dozier, the Royals' No. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com, was batting .306 between Rookie level Idaho Falls and Class A Lexington. He was also leading the Pioneer League with 23 doubles. Idaho Falls clinched a playoff berth on Wednesday night, but when the season ends, Dozier will head to the advanced instructional league along with 24 other players.
"He's got a really advanced approach at the plate. He's got more walks than strikeouts which is a great indication of a mature player," Picollo said. "He doesn't try to do more than his abilities will allow. He's got power, but he's not up there trying to drive the ball over the fence all the time.
"He's not afraid to hit with two strikes which really puts him way ahead of the curve as far as a first-year player. On top of it all, he's a great teammate and he wants to win, and he plays the game hard. It's really been an encouraging summer and a first great summer for him."
Dozier will be joined by fellow 2013 Draft pick Kyle Bartsch, a left-handed reliever for Idaho Falls, who is 2-1 record with a 2.22 ERA through 20 games.
"He's had a great year. He's a bulldog. He's really tough," Picollo said. "He likes coming into close situations and seems to excel the tighter the situation, the better he pitches. He's doesn't have a big fastball, but he's got good secondary stuff. He's able to throw his breaking ball for a strike which is a big part of it coming out of the bullpen.
"More than anything, it's the competitiveness in him and the bulldog in him that is coming through and when a team's in a playoff stretch like they are now, you want guys like that on the mound."
Picollo said that at this point, it's not as much about the instruction for players like Dozier and Bartsch, but the experience of getting to meet the coaches and staff and a first view of the complex in Surprise, Ariz.
Outfielder Bubba Starling, the Royals' third-ranked prospect and No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, will also be on the advanced instructional league roster. He played in 125 games -- batting .241 with 13 home runs for Lexington. After LASIK eye surgery in May, Picollo said the organization is happy with Starling's progress.
"His July and August have been really good," Picollo said. "One of the key stats we look at is quality plate appearances and in the first half through the end of June, he was just under 40 percent. In the last two months, he's fluctuated anywhere from 46 to 49 percent so he really finished well. I think more than anything, he took a deep breath and relaxed a little bit."
The youngest player on the roster, 18-year-old shortstop and No. 4 prospect Adalberto "Raul" Mondesi, has already made big moves through the ranks -- playing in 125 games for Lexington and batting .261. Mondesi is the son of the former Major Leaguer of the same name who played the majority of his career for the Dodgers.
"He's an extremely talented young player. Very advanced approach to the game. You can tell he's a guy that grew up around the ballpark," Picollo said. "He's one of those rare guys that can really slow the game up. Two strikes on him, there's no panic. Man on third base and he needs to hit a fly ball, he usually hits the fly ball."
Players will report for instructional league duty on Sept. 15. The advanced team will play a 19-game schedule that runs from Sept. 18 to Oct. 11. The regular instructional league, which features 49 more players, will play 22 games from Sept. 23 to Oct. 18.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com.