That didn’t take long. Less than 100 hours after his selection by the Royals in the first round of the draft, shortstop Hunter Dozier was under contract and already preparing for life as a professional.
Not only that. He already had a nickname floating around the big-league clubhouse.
As in Bull Dozier.
Well, why not? Dozier is an impressive physical specimen at 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds and spices that with an athleticism the Royals found increasingly alluring as their draft preparations unfolded.
“If you look around a major-league field,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said, “they’re big physical guys. That certainly impacts our decision-making process.
“It’s a long season. The stronger you are, the more durable you are, the better chance you have of succeeding in this game. Obviously, he fits that bill.”
Dozier, 21, reached agreement Monday on a $2.2 million signing bonus, which became official after he passed their requisite and routine physical examinations.
He joined club officials in a brief news conference before, clad in a No. 1 jersey, observing batting practice from behind the cage — generally positioned at the elbow of interim hitting coach George Brett.
“I’m not going to put any more pressure on myself (as a first-round pick),” Dozier said. “I’m just going to play as hard as I can and work as hard as I can. Whatever happens at the end of the day is what happens.”
Dozier departs Tuesday morning for an upcoming minicamp at the Royals’ year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz. Thereafter, he will be assigned to short-season Idaho Falls, which opens its season on June 18.
It was Mitch Thompson, who scouts southern Texas, who first alerted the Royals to Dozier, playing at Stephen F. Austin State University, as a possible impact player.
“He and (regional supervisor) Mitch Webster kept telling us he’s a guy we’ve got to get in and see — and see a lot,” scouting director Lonnie Goldberg said. “Every time we sent somebody in, the reports came back the same.
“Everybody fell in love with him. They fell in love with the way he played, his passion for the game, his makeup, the way he treats his teammates ... we just fell in love with him.”
Dozier cemented his impression in a recent pre-draft workout at Kauffman Stadium.
“He’s the type of player who just grabbed us and took ahold of us,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “He was somebody who, if we weren’t able to select, we would have been very disappointed.”
Even so, drafting Dozier was a something of a risk and a calculated gamble. He was generally viewed as a player likely to go late in the first round or early in the second round.
While the Royals rated him above that consensus, they wanted the parameters of a deal in place before selecting him with the eighth overall pick. Dozier’s bonus is $937,800 below the slotted bonus for that selection.
Those pre-draft discussions led to a quick resolution.
“It did come together pretty quick,” Picollo said. “We were excited to know that Hunter and his representation wanted to move quickly and were in line with our thinking.”
Dozier’s bonus falls in-between the slotted amounts for the 16th and 17th overall picks — or still better than he projected to receive. The 39th pick — where Baseball America had him ranked — had a slot of $1,433,400.
The Royals plan to use their savings to sign other players, particularly Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea, whom they chose with the 34th overall pick. Manaea projected as a top-10 pick before a hip injury.