Kings of Kauffman recently had the opportunity to interview three Kansas City Royals prospects. One of them is power-hitting 1B, Ryan O’Hearn. Below is some background information on him, along with the interview I was lucky enough to conduct. Enjoy!
An 8th-round pick in the 2014 June Amateur Draft by the Royals, Ryan O’Hearn has been an intriguing prospect from day one. Hitting .361 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs with Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League that same year, O’Hearn made his mark early.
Following that up with 27 home runs across A and A+ ball, expectations remained high. Working his way through the minor league system, O’Hearn finally made it to AAA last season. There, he smacked 18 home runs in 114 games. He’s off to a scorching start in Spring Training, hitting .407 with 4 home runs and 10 RBIs. Let’s get to the interview!
Q: Despite having produced at a solid level in AAA last season, you were demoted for the final month or so of the season. How did you handle it?
A: “I was actually given an option to go down at the end of the season or not. We had players coming off of the major league DL who needed at-bats in Omaha, so there was going to be a roster crunch. JJ [Piccolo] basically gave me the option to either stay in Omaha and play about 3 times a week to finish the season, or head to Arkansas to play every day and help that team in the playoffs.
So I chose to take the at-bats, it wasn’t an easy decision because I had been with those guys in Omaha all season. I was a middle of the order guy there all year and felt like I was a big part of that team, so it was tough to go down even though it wasn’t necessarily because of my performance. However, I had to swallow my pride and go to Arkansas with the mentality that I was there to help that team win the Texas League.”
Q: With the arrival of Lucas Duda, it appears as if you might be spending the majority of 2018 in AAA. Do you think you could find your way up to the MLB before September?
A: “Early in camp before we signed Luke I thought I had an outside chance to break [camp] with the team. The front office made some decisions to sign guys and that’s just part of how things work.
"When you’re a young player trying to make a team, there’s gonna be speed bumps and it’s all about how you react and move forward. Luke is a great guy and a great player so I’m lucky to have another left-handed power hitter in camp to learn from."
As far as making it to KC this year, that is the goal. I’ve learned that when I start thinking too far ahead, that’s when things go bad for me. Mike Sweeney once told me to keep my head down and just keep pedaling, let God take control and that’s what I’ve been focusing on! Just staying in the moment and working on getting better at my craft every day. But do I think I could get there at some point this year? Absolutely.”
Q: You’ve spent some time at the corner outfield positions throughout your minor league career. Have you thought about trying that out a bit at the MLB level?
A: “I would love to play the outfield, it seems like at some point every year I’ve had time out there. If the coaches and front office wanted me to play outfield, I would be more than happy to do it!”
Q: What’s the biggest challenge you face as a player?
A: “The biggest challenge I’ve had to face is probably just learning to deal with failure. In the past I’ve gotten in my own way a lot, I’ll get frustrated and take a bad day at the field home with me. I think right now I’m in a much better place on the mental side of the game than I ever have been.”
"“Adversity has a way of challenging you and making you a better player and person.”"
Q: One goal you’ve set for yourself this season?
A: “Two main goals for me this year are to be a better situational hitter than I was last year (moving runners, getting guys in from third with less than two outs) and to be the same exact teammate every day, whether I’m 0-for-20 or 20-for-20.”
Q: What sets the Royals organization apart from any other?
A: “I have never been part of another organization so it’s hard for me to compare. But I will say that the Royals really do treat their players like family. Dayton [Moore] has done an amazing job creating the culture that guys get to experience coming up through the system. There is nothing but quality people that make up the entire organization, from the front office to the coaches and all the way down.”
Q: Use one word to describe yourself?
First and foremost, I would like to thank Ryan for partaking in this interview. It was a pleasure learning more about him and his story, goals, and expectations of himself. I’m sure everyone here at Kings of Kauffman (fans included) is rooting for him. Keep an eye on his progression in AAA this year. Who knows, maybe we’ll be seeing him at Kauffman Stadium later this summer.
Within the last year, Kings of Kauffman has had the pleasure of interviewing prospects Nicky Lopez and Chase Vallot. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with them and provide more updated insight. Be on the lookout for those two interviews!