Going into Spring Training the KC Royals have a few position battles, in the outfield, backup catcher and first base. The battle at first base is between the two Ryans on the team, Ryan O’Hearn and Ryan McBroom.
There are a couple of ways this battle plays out for the KC Royals; they both platoon, or one wins the battle in Spring Training and the other goes to the bench or the minors. For me, the best and most likely option is to platoon them.
The reason platooning is the best option is because Ryan O’Hearn is not the best hitter against lefties and McBroom, in his cup of coffee in the majors last year, hit lefties at a clip of .280/.375/.400. O’Hearn’s clip is abysmal against lefties at .144/.235/.256, which means his OPS of .491 is beyond terrible compared to the league average of .768 against lefties.
In my opinion, Ryan O’Hearn got very unlucky last year with a .235 BABIP which means on all the balls he put in play he only got hits in 23% of them. Another stat that was a little low compared to O’hearn’s first shot in the majors is his isolated power which in 2018 was .336 while in 2019 he had an iso power of .174. I believe last year was an outlier year and I think that O’hearn can turn it around this year whether he is a platoon or winning the position outright.
Another reason platooning works the best is that McBroom can also be inserted into the lineup to give Jorge Soler a day off in right field. The only problem with the platoon this year is that it seems Salvador Perez will play a little more first base, but I still think one of these two first basemen will be the opening day starter.
If one of the two players just outright wins the job in Spring Training, then I think the player who wins it will be O’Hearn. The reason is that he is still young and just needs to learn to hit lefties, and if he does that and keeps improving his bat the KC royals will have a first baseman for a while unless Nick Pratto can improve immensely.
If Ryan O’Hearn wins the job outright Ryan McBroom will be relegated to the bench, which means he will be a backup corner outfielder or first baseman on occasion. Unless the coaching staff wants to play O’Hearn every day even against lefties McBroom will probably go back to the minors, especially if Salvador Perez is going to play a lot more first base more this year.
On the other hand, if Ryan McBroom wins the battle outright, then O’Hearn will probably be sent down to the minors since he has two options. Another reason for the demotion is O’Hearn is not as fluent in other positions as McBroom. O’Hearn can play a little outfield, but I don’t see that working out in the Royals favor since he has so little time in the outfield throughout his career and there is already a logjam in the outfield.
The last option, if it comes to that and it is highly unlikely, is the Royals signing a veteran in free agency to take over at first. There are still many options and they could lead to a trade that brings in some draft picks or prospects for the Royals.
The main options include Matt Adams, Ryan Zimmerman, Tyler Austin, and Mitch Moreland. The best option here is to get either Adams or Austin since both are a little bit younger and will have a little more team control which leads to more trade value.
To be realistic, the Royals will not sign a veteran first baseman since it doesn’t make sense to do so at the moment. The Royals have two major league ready first basemen and have some intriguing prospects at first base who could show up sometime this year.
If the KC Royals want to sign any veteran to the team it should be a starting pitcher, since the rotation is not great outside of Danny Duffy and Brad Keller. The main pieces on the market would be Taijuan Walker, Drew Smyly, Edwin Jackson, or Danny Salazar. The best option of this bunch would be Taijuan Walker who is still young at 27 and could be a staple in the rotation given he has a good year this year.
To conclude, the battle at first base will be determined this Spring Training and we will see what will happen, whether one Ryan wins it outright or they platoon during the season. This battle will help determine if the KC Royals need to get a first baseman later down the road.