Hunter Dozier's eyes scanned the clubhouse, going from locker to locker to make sure he wasn't leaving anyone out.
He'd been asked to guess the fastest player on the Royals' roster, and the first baseman took a few seconds before giving his best guess.
"On the team?" he said. "Maybe Whit."
Dozier was close ... but not correct. Teammate Whit Merrifield, according to Statcast's Sprint Speed metric, was second on the active roster, capable of covering 29.0 feet per second.
The fastest as of Wednesday — at 29.1 feet per second — happened to be Dozier himself.
"I did not know that," Dozier said. "That's hilarious."
Before explaining how this happened — and how Dozier's past led him to a speedier future — let's first clear up what we're talking about here.
Sprint Speed is Statcast's tool that measures how quickly a player runs in his fastest one-second window on competitive base-running plays — an amount of time that usually captures about seven maximum-effort strides. MLB's full explanation goes into further detail about how the final number is reached, as certain home-to-first and two-base runs are tracked before the top 70 percent of the player's data is averaged for the final Sprint Speed number.
Though that all can sound a bit complicated, just know the top of the Sprint Speed leaderboard looks pretty much like you'd expect.
|Adam Engel||White Sox||29.9|
Some of baseball's fastest players take up the top five spots. And Dozier — out of more than 400 qualified — ranked 36th in the majors on Wednesday, which also was the best mark for a first baseman.
"That's pretty cool," Dozier said. "I've always considered myself a good runner — an above-average runner — but nothing like that. ... Maybe I have a little more adrenaline running up here."
His standing also was partially fueled by a poor year in the minors.
Dozier said he reported to spring training in 2015 at about 235 pounds, the heaviest he'd ever been. Coincidence or not, that was the start of a subpar offensive season, as he hit .213 at Northwest Arkansas with an overall batting line that was 25 percent worse than league average.
"I was really bulky, and I had my worst year," Dozier said. "So I wanted to lean out a little bit and stay athletic. That was the biggest thing. I just wanted to be athletic out there."
The Royals helped him stay motivated. They told Dozier he might be considered at a corner outfield position in the future, which gave him more reason to improve his conditioning.
He started working out during the off-season at EXOS in Frisco, Texas, with an emphasis on gaining mobility while also increasing acceleration and speed with quick-feet and hurdles drills.
As of this week, he says, he weighs 220.
"I think people see my size and think, 'OK, he's not going to be a runner,'" Dozier said. "And now, since I'm playing first, normally those guys don't run a lot."
The perception of his speed perhaps doesn't match reality — even if it's tough to dodge that stereotype. For example, in his 2018 Royals prospect bio on MLB.com, Dozier was given a "40" run grade on scouts' 20-80 scale, with a snippet saying he moves "reasonably well for a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder" before labeling him a "below-average runner."
The data appears to say something different. There was some evidence of that on Tuesday, as Dozier hit a ball down the right-field line and decided to test the Twins' Max Kepler while going for a hustle double; the play ended up not being close at second because of Dozier's speed.ozier double
As of Wednesday, Dozier was in good company when it came to Sprint Speed. His 29.1 feet per second ranked ahead of players like Brett Gardner, Starling Marte, Christian Yelich, Kevin Kiermaier and Ketel Marte. His number also was better than Jarrod Dyson's Sprint Speed mark (29.0) during his final season with the Royals in 2016.
Unfortunately for Dozier, he fell back slightly after Thursday's game. He's down to 29.0 feet per second, which puts him in a tie with Merrifield for the top mark on the Royals' current roster.
So is it likely the two will settle who's quickest with a race?
"No," Dozier said with a smile. "I'll just let Statcast prove him wrong."
|2018 Royals top Sprint Speed players, active roster||Ft./Sec|