The Kansas City Royals have an interesting case on their hands. The Royals have Ryan O’Hearn, who is showing some power at the MLB level, while Hunter Dozier is still kind of an “unknown”. But what does that mean for the future?
To start the year, it was believed that the future for the Kansas City Royals at first base belonged to 2017 first round pick Nick Pratto. The only caveat was the waiting game. The high schooler was going to need time to develop and showcase what he was capable of doing. Therefore, the Royals need someone to fill in while the development begins.
While Pratto has started showing signs of turning things around, he still has a lot of work to do. While in Single-A Lexington this year, Pratto is hitting .268/.331/.412 with 41 extra-base hits. He also won MVP of the 2018 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. But, Pratto really isn’t all that close to being ready.
Which brings us to the main point. As of right now, the Royals have Hunter Dozier, Lucas Duda, and Ryan O’Hearn on the 25-man roster as potential first baseman. While Duda obviously is not a long-term solution at first base, and let’s be real the plan was for him to already be traded, both O’Hearn and Dozier are.
The new guy
I’ll be the first to say, I didn’t think the O’Hearn callup was going to work. After all, besides hitting .352/.408/.670 in 2016 at Adv. A-Ball Wilmington, O’Hearn really hasn’t shown much offensive prowess. The power shows up every once in a while, but his batting average normally hovered around .250 at every level each year.
Before getting called up, O’Hearn was hitting .232/.322/.391 with 21 doubles and 11 home runs. Not exactly eye-popping numbers. Which also made me curious as to why the Royals decided to call him up.
When Ned Yost was asked, he mentioned that O’Hearn has been hitting the ball hard all year, he’s just not hitting them where the defense isn’t. Which, is kind of important. Therefore, with that in mind, you have to appreciate the fact that the Royals were trying to see what a young player can do.
So far, O’Hearn hasn’t been great, but we are seeing the hard-hitting Yost mentioned. With the Royals over 17 games, he is hitting .232/.295/.589 with two doubles and six home runs. While he is still striking out a lot more than one would like, 18 at the MLB level, that is to be expected with a newer MLB player and someone swinging for power like O’Hearn does.
When you look at him through matric eyes, he comes across as an up-and-down player. His offensive wRC+ is 134 with the Royals, which is really good. However, his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is just .219, which is not good. Defensively his UZR at first base is a -0.6, which is below league average. In fact, his Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is sitting right at 0.
However, the excitement that comes with his power might be enough to keep him around for a bit.
The “unknown” known guy
Which leads us to Dozier now. While Dozier has spent time with the year with the Royals big league club, he is still kind of an unknown player. Yes, it is becoming more clear what he might be, but he may have a few more question marks around him.
Dozier was moved to first base last year so that he could try and make a push into the big league world. To say it has been less than impressive is a bit of an understatement. This year over 73 games, Dozier is hitting .217/.275/.349 with 10 doubles and seven home runs. Nothing to really jump for.
Matric wise, he is performing well below average. His wRC+ is 68, which is not very good. However, when looking at his BABIP, he is hitting .297 on the year. Which to me basically shows he has to do the one basic thing all offensive hitters should to be good at…put the ball in play. Which he is struggling with.
Defensively, he is about average according to some statistics. At first base this year his UZR is a 1.0 but a -3 DRS. In right field, he has a 0.1 UZR with a 0 DRS. Both are right about at league average if you turn your head a certain way. At third base though, which is supposed to be his “natural” position, he has a -1.9 UZR and a -3 DRS, which is below average.
Which leads us to one question
Are these two really the stopgap first basemen until Pratto is ready?
In my opinion, no. In fact, I believe the stopgap first basemen might actually still be in Omaha. Frank Schwindel might be the better choice at first base than Dozier and O’Hearn. As it currently stands, Schwindel might be the better offensive player between the three.
This year, Schwindel is hitting .285/.337/.502 with 33 doubles and 22 home runs over 123 games, which is better than any stretch of time O’Hearn and Dozier put together in Omaha. More impressively this year, in my opinion, is the fact that he has struck out just 66 times compared to 33 walks. This year alone, Dozier struck out 43 times in 35 games in Omaha and O’Hearn struck out 97 times over 100 games in Omaha.
In order for Schwindel to make the jump, the Royals would have to make room on the 40-man roster, which doesn’t seem all that likely with all the chances they have had already with players traded/released.
I’m still unsure about O’Hearn. Obviously, he needs more than 17 games to make a case of where he belongs with the Royals. Dozier seems to be more of a “known” commodity, although he hasn’t logged a full year of consistent playing time.
If anything, I believe the Royals will have to give Schwindel a chance before we can truly answer this question. With how he has been producing offensively in Omaha, it seems illogical to not give him a shot. If anything, the Royals could use O’Hearn as the team’s first baseman/designated hitter, Dozier as the third baseman, and Schwindel as the team’s designated hitter/first baseman.
I’m personally against having Dozier move to third base because of what that means for other players on the team who are producing better number than Dozier, but that is an option.
What do you think? Should Dozier and O’Hearn be the Royals stopgap at first base? Should Schwindel get a chance instead? Is all of this just a plug until Pratto is ready? Let us know below!