There's no working around this: Hunter Dozier has had a very rough 2021 season with the Kansas City Royals. The 30-year-old third baseman-turned-corner-outfielder currently sports a slash of .215/.285/.393 on the season and has struggled immensely at the plate. Those tides are turning, though, and it's never too late to improve.
The month of September has been extremely kind to Dozier. After going 2-for-3 in Saturday night's loss to the Detroit Tigers, he's hitting .292 in his last 22 games. That includes a .364 on-base percentage and .646 slugging percentage, making for an outrageously good 1.010 OPS. Dozier's clobbered five home runs this month, too, while walking eight times. He touched on his recent play on Saturday after the game.
"Everything I've been working on all year in the cage... just starting to show up, starting to feel really comfortable with it," Dozier said. "I think when the swing feels good and you have confidence up there, you're going to see the ball better, too."
We've been here with Dozier before, as he's had stretches of play in which he looked both confident and comfortable. In the month of August, his line was a measly .216/.262/.330 with 30 strikeouts — worse than his season-wide production. It's worth reasoning that his early-season thumb injury did impact his swing, comfort and confidence, but the consistency hasn't been there. Dozier is glad to be ending the season on a positive note, though.
"For sure," Dozier said when asked if this recent stretch is encouraging. "You always want to finish the season strong, no matter what kind of year you've had. Unfortunately, I haven't had the best year but I'm just trying to finish strong and I think it's good for me to see the results and stuff because I've been working so hard this year to kind of get back to what kind of player I can be. To see that translate onto the field is big for me."
Dozier has shown in the past that he's capable of being an above-average hitter. In 2019, he posted an OPS of .870 while hitting 29 doubles, 26 home runs and 10 triples. He played in 139 games that year so while it may be an outlier resume-wise, the ceiling is there — it's up to him to reach it. As he builds for 2022, perhaps a great September can serve as a stepping stone. The odds of that happening aren't terrific, but it's possible nonetheless.