The KC Royals had a young slugger making his way in 2018, but 2019 proved to not be as easy. Will the first baseman again find his stride in 2020?
For the KC Royals, 2018 is likely a season they want to forget. Only a few years displaced from a World Series, and 1 year out from a losing but not terrible (compared to the past few) 80-82 2017 season, the team lost 104 games.
There were not a lot of bright spots to be found on the team. A good portion of the World Series team was gone, and those that were still around weren’t playing like WS Champions. Whit Merrifield was able to create some noise, but on an otherwise inconsistent team, he seemed to get lost in the mess.
Then, towards the end of the year, things started to get interesting. The Royals were making some moves, and on July 31, 2018, the Royals selected the contract or Ryan O’Hearn. O’Hearn had been doing well for himself in the minors, proving he could make the jump to each level, and the Royals decided it was time to see what he could do in the majors.
O’Hearn quickly proved that it was the right call and got to work. He finished the 2018 season with 44 games, 170 plate appearances, slashed .262/.353/.597, and recorded 30 RBI’s, 10 doubles, and 12 home runs.
The excitement was building and O’Hearn’s name was quickly spread among Royals fans. The Royals needed someone that could hit the ball hard, and with Mike Moustakas having been traded to the Brewers, they needed someone that could hit home runs.
Unfortunately, 2019 proved not to be as easy for O’Hearn. He saw 105 games and 370 plate appearances, but only slashed .195/.281/..369 with 13 doubles and 14 home runs. This was nowhere near the O’Hearn fans saw in 2018, and it wasn’t long before he spent some time in the minors.
He smashed through AAA and again was called up to the majors, but this time had some more momentum. He saw a drastic increase and slashed .250/.283/.536 during September.
In looking at the past two years’ worth of performances, the question that remains is, who is the real Ryan O’Hearn?
Though it’s a small sample, O’Hearn did get off to a great start in spring training. Over 13 games, with 38 plate appearances, he slashed .343/.395/.857 with 3 doubles and 5 home runs. He looked about like the O’Hearn we all saw in 2018, and likely worked hard during the offseason to improve on his numbers.
But spring training stats are unfortunately not to be trusted. They aren’t always wrong, but they certainly aren’t always right either. So where does O’Hearn go from here?
While it may not look like a positive to many, the fact that he has competition for the first base spot might be in his favor. After his short time in the minors last year, O’Hearn saw a huge increase in stats. The same can often be seen when competition is added into the mix. The potential of losing a spot brings everything into focus and motivates players to up their game.
O’Hearn is in the perfect position to have a bounce-back year, and prove that 2018 was no fluke. It has been said that Mike Matheny sees potential in O’Hearn so it’s likely he will get a good amount of playing time, and at age 26, he is in a prime spot to become an important piece in the future of the team, and provide some extra power for team that hopes to contend in the near future.
If the struggles continue, O’Hearn may find himself falling to the back of the line. Filling the first base spot has been difficult for the Royals and inconsistency continues to find it’s way into the corner office. Unfortunately, O’Hearn has not done much to change the concept of inconsistent first basemen.
With the 2020 season currently on hold, fans will have to wait and see how O’Hearn handles the season. Fans can only hope that once the season takes off, though, the real Ryan O’Hearn shows up and the home runs continue to fly.
Do you think the Royals will finally get the real O’Hearn in 2020? And if so, will he make his claim for first, or fall to the back? Let us know in the comments.