KC Royals: A former player suddenly excels while another struggles

Two ex-Royal teammates appear to be headed in different directions.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought, back when the KC Royals closed out their 2018 season with 104 losses, that two young players who gave the club and its fans reasons to believe 2019 would be better wouldn't be Royals just five years later?

After all, rookie Ryan O'Hearn found major league pitching so much to his liking that he clubbed 12 homers, drove in 30 runs, and slashed a respectable .262/.353/.597 in only 44 games. And Adalberto Mondesi, playing more times (75) than his first two seasons combined (72), lived up to his potential for power and speed by homering 14 times and stealing 32 bases.

Both players seemed destined for more success. And both enjoyed flashes of it—O'Hearn hit 14 homers in 2019 and, despite his subsequent and infamous three-season dive into the tank at the plate, developed into a decent pinch hitter while Mondesi tied for the big league triples lead in 2019 and led the bigs in steals with 24 in the 60-game pandemic-abbreviated 2020 campaign before an uncanny series of injuries, topped by the torn ACL he suffered less than a month into last season, forced him off the field for agonizingly long periods.

Now, neither plays for Kansas City. The club shipped O'Hearn to Baltimore in a straightforward, early January player-for-cash deal, and sent Mondesi (and Angel Pierre as a player to be named later) packing to Boston for reliever Josh Taylor three weeks later.

One of the former Royals is flourishing in his new surroundings. The other isn't.

Picking up one of the ex-KC Royals is paying nice dividends for Baltimore

At first, things didn't look good for O'Hearn when he joined the Orioles. His new team designated him for assignment two days after the trade, but it soon became apparent that Baltimore just wanted to open 40-man roster space, get him through waivers unclaimed, and then assign him to the minors. That the O's interest in O'Hearn was genuine became clear when they invited him to spring training and, after he slashed .375/.444/.650 in 18 spring games before starting the season in Triple-A and posting a nine-game .300/.349/.725 line, brought him back to the majors.

O'Hearn did return to the minors, but only for a few days and, considering how he's performing with two months left in the season, may not see the farm again ... at least not this year.

That's because he's rediscovered a good bat. Through Thursday, O'Hearn, who's DH'd and played first base and right and left fields over 58 games, is hitting well (.308), finding ways to get on base (.351 OBP), and has nine homers, numbers that certainly haven't hurt the Orioles, who lead the competitive American League East heading into an important weekend series with the Yankees.

Will O'Hearn's good fortune continue? He's been known to get hot only to regress again, but is enjoying more sustained success this time. Perhaps he's turned the proverbial corner.

The other former KC Royals player isn't playing at all

While O'Hearn and his new club battle for a playoff spot, Mondesi has yet to play even an inning in Boston.

Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Still nagging him is the torn ACL that cost him most of the 2022 campaign. He began the season on the 60-day Injured List and hasn't left it while he recovers from the injury. He's progressed so little that Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed last month the club's decision to end all baseball activities for the player many believed could help Boston this season.

Each passing day without him playing casts even more doubt on the already pessimistic outlook for Mondesi's 2023 baseball year. Hopefully, he'll be cleared to resume baseball activities soon.

And his career at some point.

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