It’s no secret. The KC Royals offense has been bad. The lineup is last in the majors leagues runs scored, batting average, OBP, and SLG. The team has already tried a couple young players out, including recent call-up Jorge Bonifacio. Might it be time to look for another?
Some of the KC Royals offseason deals haven’t gone very well so far. Brandon Moss has been atrocious as the designated hitter. Reliever Travis Wood can’t get anybody out. Jason Hammel has been inconsistent. If this team is going to get any extra help, it will have to come from the farm.
And one option for help is Ryan O’Hearn. The rated as the KC Royals #7 prospect, according to MLB.com, O’Hearn has mashed in his entire professional career.
Considered one of the top hitting prospects in the organization, here is where O’Hearn ranks on some other major prospects lists.
- 8th – Baseball America
- 4th – KATOH
- 6th – Minor League Ball
O’Hearn has a good story too. From Frisco, Texas, O’Hearn attended nearby Sam Houston State University. O’Hearn hit very well throughout his three years in college, owning an OPS about .700 every year. He was never considered much of a power hitter though, only hitting 11 home runs in three seasons.
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The KC Royals saw something in him though. Taking him in the 8th round, 243th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, the KC Royals sent him to rookie ball where they taught him to unlock his power. That year he posted a slashline of .361/.444/.590, which was good enough for a wRC+ that was first in the Pioneer League by a wide margin.
O’Hearn didn’t stop there. The next year, his first full season of pro ball, O’Hearn hit 19 home runs in 81 games. This gave him the 3rd highest SLG in the Sally League that year.
O’Hearn earned himself a promotion to the next level. After struggling a little bit in the second half of 2015, O’Hearn repeated Class A+. He was on another level this time. O’Hearn posted a 191 wRC+ early on and in about a month, he found himself in AA, where he spent the remainder of the year.
After getting some at bats in spring training this year, the KC Royals sent O’Hearn to the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. So far, all he has done is hit. Playing first base for the Storm Chasers, he has hit .333 with 5 homers in 16 games.
What’s been impressive to is he is striking out less, which has been an issue for him in the past.
And many people are buying the bat of O’Hearn.
Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review,
"If O’Hearn was a true outfielder (he spent time in LF in 2016) then I think he’d be a top 100 prospect easily. Instead with the mainly 1B profile (poor wheels, not great arm, just okay defensively) he’s more of a fringe top 100 guy. That’s still a really good outcome for an 8th round pick where basically getting any MLB playing time that’s better than replacement level is a win."
"No longer asked to serve pitches to the opposite field like he was in college, O’Hearn now concentrates on driving the ball. He generates well above-average raw power with strength and leverage, and he can hit the ball out of the park to all fields. His left-handed swing gets long and he has an aggressive approach, resulting in a lot of strikeouts, though he has shown a willingness to take walks."
But there are reasons for concerns too. O’Hearn has a slow bat that can result in strikeouts, below-average speed and defender.
But if O’Hearn can continue to work pitchers, use his elite pull power, he could easily be a guy that hits .250/.320/.460.
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With Eric Hosmer’s free agency coming up and current DH Brandon Moss struggling, don’t be surprised if O’Hearn is up in Kansas City sooner or later.