Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s projection series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various KC Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up for consideration today is Ryan O’Hearn.
Ryan O’Hearn is no longer what he once was, an up-and-comer whose excellent 2018 season left him well-positioned to play a key role in the Royals’ critical post-2017 rebuild. He’s so disappointed since then that his future with the club probably hangs by a thread.
It’s a blunt assessment to be sure, but painfully accurate.
O’Hearn broke into the majors in 2018 by clubbing 12 homers and driving in 30 runs with a respectable .263 average and excellent .353 OBP in 44 games, all numbers that justified thinking of him as a Royal star of the future.
Subsequent performance, however, hasn’t equaled expectation. O’Hearn hit two more home runs in 2019 than he did in 2018, but in 105 games his average plunged to an unacceptable .195 and his OBP to a mediocre .281. The abbreviated 2020 campaign wasn’t much better—he hit .195 again with only a pair of homers in 42 of the Royals’ 60 games.
And despite some good moments last season, O’Hearn failed once again to measure up to the hopes his rookie season inspired. He hit .225 with eight homers; his OBP was only .268.
Even the eternally optimistic Royals, who tend to ride disappointing horses far too long, should have O’Hearn on a short string.
Can he play well enough this season to reclaim a prominent spot in Kansas City’s plans?
How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project the KC Royals’ Ryan O’Hearn.
How will Ryan O’Hearn actually perform for the KC Royals this season?
Whether O’Hearn returns to a reasonable facsimile of his 2018 self will determine his Kansas City fate. He’ll need to give the Royals some strong reasons to believe he can when the club begins its abbreviated Cactus League schedule Friday; if he doesn’t, Triple-A Omaha may be the best he can hope for.
Don’t look for a stellar year from O’Hearn. He may improve slightly from the aggregate disappointment of his last three seasons, but probably not enough to stay on the Royals’ radar.
After three poor seasons, Ryan O’Hearn should be on a short string with the Royals. A very short string.