Royals: Breaking down Ryan O’Hearn’s 2019 season month-by-month

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Ryan O’Hearn struggled during the 2019 season with the Kansas City Royals, but his month-to-month stats show he may be working out the issues.

On July 31, 2018, the Kansas City Royals called Ryan O’Hearn up to the majors. O’Hearn proceeded to not only play well, but he made his case to be the starting first basemen for the 2019 season. In 44 games, O’Hearn slashed .262/.353/.597, with 30 RBI’s, 10 doubles, and 12 home runs. The Royals hoped O’Hearn could continue that pace into the following season and give them an all-star performance at first base.

Unfortunately, O’Hearn could not keep up once 2019 came. O’Hearn was on the roster, but he was fighting for the full-time spot at first base. He struggled the entire season, even seeing some time back in the minors. During the 2019 season in 105 games, O’Hearn slashed .195/.281/.369, with 38 RBI’s, 13 doubles, and 14 home runs. The difference from the previous year was obvious.

O’Hearn did finally start to see some progress, but it was not until the end of the season. This could have some positive implications for future years though. The Royals need O’Hearn to produce as they had an obvious hole at first base in 2019. For this article, some of O’Hearn’s stats will be laid out month by month to see when and if he started to show progress to turn his stats around. The stats used will be those most likely to show productivity for O’Hearn, his slash and hits, plus doubles and home runs as he is a power hitter.

March: Games – 2; AB – 8; Hits – 2; 2B – 1; HR – 0; Monthly Slash – .250/.250/.375 

O’Hearns March stats were not what one might call pretty, but they were also from only two games. It’s not unusual for a player to take some time getting going at the beginning of the year, especially a young player like O’Hearn. Because of this being such a small sample, there is not much to say other than it doesn’t get much better.

April: Games – 24; AB – 76; Hits – 12; 2B – 2; HR – 3; Monthly Slash – .158/.286/.329

With 24 games in April, O’Hearn gave a much better sample. Unfortunately, the sample is not positive for him. In 24 games, O’Hearn had 12 hits. With a few multi-hit games, O’Hearn only recorded a hit in 8 April games. While 2 doubles and 3 home runs look decent over only 12 hits, when one realizes this is out of 76 at-bats, the perspective becomes a little more clear.

O’Hearn was struggling and the Royals were noticing. As a power hitter, O’Hearn doesn’t necessarily need to bat over .300, but a .158 for the month is not going to cut it, and O’Hearns season was starting to go downhill quickly.

May: Games – 22; AB – 76; Hits – 17; 2B – 3; HR – 2; Monthly Slash – .224/.314/.342

O’Hearn started to show up a little better in May, but it was still a rough month. Like in April, O’Hearn saw 76 at-bats but added a few more hits this time. He also saw an increase in games he sat, not playing in 6 games in May, and sitting only 2 in April.  Maybe fear of not playing caused O’Hearn to try and step up his numbers a bit, but it still wasn’t enough to impress.

The power hitting that O’Hearn showcased in 2018 was nowhere to be found. A batting average of .224 might be able to get looked over a little longer if he could produce home runs, but through May, O’Hearn was failing to produce anything at the plate.

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June: Games – 8; AB – 26; Hits – 4; 2B – 1; HR – 1; Monthly Slash – .154/.214/.308

In June, O’Hearn’s struggles finally caught up to him. After 4 hits in 26 at-bats, the Royals optioned O’Hearn to AAA Omaha. If O’Hearn was going to struggle, the Royals were going to let him do it in the minors while someone else got a chance at first base. It’s been seen many times that a player is sent to the minors and returns better than ever. While one can’t know for sure, it is likely this was on the minds of many in the Royals organization.

July: Games – 5; AB – 16; Hits – 1; 2B – 0; HR – 0; Monthly Slash – .063/.118/.063

July was another month were O’Hearn did not have a large sample size. After a long stay at Omaha, O’Hearn was recalled to Kansas City on July 27th. Though the sample was small, the numbers were not looking good for O’Hearn.

August: Games – 22; AB – 70; Hits – 14; 2B – 2; HR – 4; Monthly Slash – .200/.300/.400

O’Hearn’s August looked better. It still wasn’t all that pretty, but it was better. O’Hearn was back up to a higher number of at-bats and was hitting about as well as his best month in May, with a little more power. This was the first-month O’Hearn had hit .400 slugging and one can assume it was a nice sight for O’Hearn and the rest of the Royals pulling for him.

September: Games – 22; AB – 56; Hits – 14; 2B – 4; HR – 4; Monthly Slash – .250/.283/.536

September was O’Hearn’s best month of the year. While his on-base percentage of .283 was lower than desired, a batting average of .250 and a slugging of .536 is a safe spot for a power hitter. O’Hearn had almost the same stat line as August, plus two doubles, in 14 fewer innings. While it could have been another end of the year surge, it warrants giving O’Hearn another shot in 2020.

To be productive in 2020, O’Hearn needs to work on his patience and discipline. He is very similar, as far as hitting, to Jorge Soler. Soler struggled greatly at the beginning of 2019 but he continued to work as the year went on and his plate discipline got better and better. He still led the league in strikeouts, but he also led in home runs.

This is the same style O’Hearn should look to if he wants to continue playing at the major league level. At no time does he need to have the highest batting average on the team, and it’s likely that he won’t, but he should have a higher slugging and with his power produce 30-plus home runs a year.

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If O’Hearn can shake the struggles from 2019 and calm down when he is at the plate, he can continue to show that he deserves to be on the field. His ending stats in 2019 showed improvement and give hope that O’Hearn has worked out some of the kinks. For the Royals’ sake, hopefully, O’Hearn can get himself on track and fill the desperately needed first base void.