Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost will be considering using a platoon to cover first base this season. It wont be a traditional platoon, per Jeffrey Flanagan, but it will resemble one.
The platoon partners will be Ryan O’Hearn (duh) and Hunter Dozier. Originally it was thought they each would have their own starting role on the Kansas City Royals infield. That still will be true, but there are games when Dozier will slide over to cover first base when the other team throws a lefty. This will give room for super utility man Chris Owings to get regular playing time.
Based on Yost’s language this will not be a hard nosed platoon. There may be some games where a southpaw is on the mound and O’Hearn is in the starting lineup, but it seems more often than not that will not be the case.
O’Hearn Vs. Lefties
In his small sample size in 2018, the left-handed batting O’Hearn churned out what can be considered a very surprising performance for the Kansas City Royals. It took 44 games for him to accumulate a 0.8 fWAR, in large part to his 153 wRC+ at the MLB level.
Against righties, O’Hearn was excellent. He hit .313 with 10 homers and was also good for a 194 wRC+. Lefties were a completely different story. He struck out a 39 percent of the time (only 37 ABs), hitting a lowly .108 with a wRC+ of 24. Small sample size or not, that is a bad performance.
In the optimists eye, O’Hearn just needs more at bats against lefties and his numbers will pick up. As seen in Flanny’s tweet above, Yost is most certainly an optimist. And that comes with good reason too.
In his 100 games at Triple A in 2018 , O’Hearn’s numbers against lefties are actually better than righties. He was slashing .271/.370/.471 with four homers in 85 at bats against southpaws. Compared to his .220/.306/.366 and seven homers in 268 at bats, it looks pretty good.
Dozier Vs. Lefties
It is hard to measure what Dozier can do because of his poor showing last year. So his .208 batting average against lefties is likely to improve in 2019 if he looks like the player he once was thought to become.
What Dozier provides right off the bat is a favorable matchup. He swings from the right side of the plate, so is numbers (should) inherently be better than O’Hearn’s. Although this is a bet that Dozier will be able to keep pace and grow from the latter half of 2018.
Dozier’s offensive production will be a big question mark in the 2019 season.
The Chris Owings Effect
Yost plans to use Owings on a regular basis, but he will be spread out all over the field. Whenever someone gets a day off, he will fill in. That also means that when O’Hearn is out and Dozier is at first, Owings will be at third.
Owings is coming off of his worst season at the plate by far. Prior to 2018, he only once hit under .260. That was a .227 mark in his career high 147 game season in 2015. Last year he hit .206. With regular playing time, he could become one of the better super utility options in the game of baseball…that is if he can be productive with a bat in his hands.
One more note to make is that Nicky Lopez is always waiting in the wings. He has defensive flexibility that will allow for a lot of lineup card flexibility if he makes the Kansas City Royals roster.
This platoon will wind up being a very good thing. If O’Hearn, Owings, and Dozier can all perform at the plate, then the Kansas City Royals will be able to surprise the league from an offensive standpoint. That is, of course, if Yost’s strategy works out.