The KC Royals need a placeholder, and Ryan O’Hearn currently fits the bill.
Kansas City is a team in transition. Few players other than catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Michael A. Taylor, and the starting pitchers and relievers, know on any given day where they’ll play. So many Royals shift around—Bobby Witt Jr. between shortstop and second base, Nicky Lopez between second, short and third, Vinnie Pasquantino between first and DH, MJ Melendez between backing up Perez, DH and right field, and Nick Pratto between first and the outfield. And with Andrew Benintendi gone, Taylor can never be sure who his outfield wingmen might be.
The Royals are seeing what their youngsters can do. Promising infielder Maikel Garcia is up and down from the minors, Michael Massey may or may not settle into the second base job after Merrifield’s departure, but will get some looks at third. The club recalled outfielder Nate Eaton Thursday when it moved Edward Olivares from the 10-day to 60-day Injured List.
Simply put, the Royals are doing what so many cried out for—giving the potential-packed kids a chance to play and prove themselves. Not wanting to waste them on the bench forces Matheny to move them around constantly, leaving the bench to players on days off or who’ve been displaced temporarily by one of the rookies.
And to O’Hearn. Unlike his rookie season, O’Hearn doesn’t have the bona fides required of an everyday player. But he can occasionally spell others when they need a rest, and pinch hit better than any other Royal.
So, despite a weak bat, O’Hearn has a present role. It’s a job, though, that could be filled by a minor leaguer who isn’t quite good enough to play every day in the big leagues but might be more consistent at the plate.