KC Royals: Questions loom as Spring Training approaches

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

The KC Royals have been searching for a first baseman for three seasons and hope to find one in 2020. The club will look first to a couple of young players with the same first name.

The KC Royals’ quest to fill the gaping hole left at first base by Eric Hosmer‘s departure after 2017 continues. The club gave Lucas Duda two shots at the job, first in 2018 until it traded him to Atlanta, then again for a shorter time in 2019 before declaring a merciful end to the attempt when Duda’s bat failed. Ryan O’Hearn received the longest look at first last season, but suffered at the plate.

So it is that the Royals enter their third Spring Training with things still unsettled at Hosmer’s old position. Their hopes to finally resolve the matter rest first on O’Hearn, whose 2018 performance earned him most of the playing time at first last season–he played there in 31 of his 44 games, hitting 12 home runs with 30 RBIs, a .262 average and .950 OPS (154 OPS+). Although he declined miserably in 2019–he hit 14 homers but with an ugly .195/.281/.369 slash (70 OPS+)–’18 may more accurately reflect his potential. And new manager Mike Matheny is a fan.

Unless KC swings a late deal, another Ryan will provide O’Hearn’s competition. Ryan McBroom came to the club last August in a straight-cash transaction with the Yankees and saw action at first and in the outfield. His batting average was the best feature of his .293/.361/.360 23-game slash (his 93 OPS+ must improve) but he clubbed 102 homers in six minor league seasons with the Yanks and posted a .976 OPS in AAA before the Royals bought his contract.

Of course, the club is sure to test Salvador Perez at first a few times this season as it searches for ways to reduce the physical demands of catching and to rest his post-Tommy John surgery elbow. And Jorge Soler may see bits of time there. Clearly, however, the Royals seek daily first base certainty, so a Ryan is the preferred everyday choice. A Ryan-Ryan platoon isn’t out of the question–McBroom fares far better against left-handers than O’Hearn.