According to Google Maps, it is 1155.7 miles from Melaleuca Field, home of the Idaho Falls Chukars, to Kauffman Stadium. Of course, for those prospects who are presently playing in Idaho Falls, that journey is much longer, as there are four more levels between them and finally making an appearance with the Royals. Yet, if Ryan O’Hearn‘s first minor league season is any indication, that journey may not take that much time.
Taken in the eighth round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, O’Hearn exploded on the scene. In his 63 games with the Chukars, O’Hearn posted a .361/.444/.590 batting line, belting 13 home runs in 249 at bats. O’Hearn actually led the Royals minor leagues in OPS, posting an excellent 1.034 mark, outpacing fellow Chukar Corey Toups by .074 for the highest mark in the system.
The biggest question is whether or not this type of production can be close to sustainable. While no one would expect Ryan O’Hearn to duplicate that batting line next season or going forward, he may have been helped by the fact that virtually everything he put his bat on fell in play. Last year, O’Hearn posted a .425 batting average on balls in play, helped dramatically by his 26.3% line drive rate. Both marks were far above league average last season, but can O’Hearn keep up that pace?
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However, for a team that has struggled to find a consistent power threat at the major league level, any glimmer of hope is certainly worth examining. O’Hearn, despite playing for in the short season Pioneer League, finished fifth amongst the Royals minor leaguers in home runs. If we discount Carlos Peguero, who is likely a AAAA player, and career minor leaguer Matt Fields, O’Hearn is actually third among players who could, someday, make an impact for the Royals.
Ryan O’Hearn certainly has a long way to go before he reaches the Royals. There will be other stops along the way, and it will be interesting to see how he fares playing in full season leagues. The next jump, from A to AA, will also be interesting to watch, as AA is traditionally the proving ground for those players who truly tore apart the lower minors. Yet for the sheer power potential, O’Hearn is certainly going to be a fun player to watch as he progresses through the Royals system.
He may not be the biggest name among the Royals prospects, but Ryan O’Hearn may well prove to be an impact bat someday. He is certainly too far away to project a major league arc, yet O’Hearn is worth keeping an eye on over the next few years.