To the amazement of many, Ryan O’Hearn was called up by the Royals on July 31, 2018. In the social media universe there was a lot of concern, with many asking, “Why O’Hearn over Frank Schwindel?” After all, O’Hearn was having a very lackluster season in his second year at the AAA level. In 100 games for the Omaha Storm Chasers he had posted a slash line of .232/.322/.391 with only 21 doubles and 11 home runs. The big concern was the high strikeouts (97) to less than half the walks (45).
Meanwhile, Frank has had a good season even if it is not as good as his 2017 season. In 132 games in 2018 he has slashed .282/.333/.502 with a PCL leading 36 doubles and has belted 24 homeruns. In the process of doing this, Frank has lowered his strikeouts (70) and increased his walks (34) over his totals from last year (85 K & 16 BB). So if O’Hearn was doing so was seemingly struggling and Schwindel was doing so well, why did O’Hearn get called up?
The Royals saw something in him that not many were seeing. Ryan was hitting the ball hard but the ball was just not falling in the gaps. The Royals touted his exit velocity as one of the reasons that they called him up. Royals Review did an article on this and the importance of OPS over batting average. At the time of the articles writing Ryan O’Hearn had the “12th highest average exit velocity among all MLB players who have hit at least 25 baseballs this season”. In a September 1st tweet by Patrick Brennan he noted that “only four players have put the ball in play more than Ryan O’Hearn with a higher exit velocity”
So what the Royals saw in Ryan during his lackluster second go around in AAA was enough to give him some time at the Major League Level. It seems to be paying off.
Ryan has been on a historic pace since his July 31 debut and we all know how that debut went, but just in case you were under a rock somewhere here it is from Rustin Dodd:
And then in the month since his debut he has accomplished feats that mere normal baseball players can only dream of:
Additionally during one of the Fox Sports KC TV game broadcasts they put up a graphic with this stat about Ryan O’Hearn: He is the “1st Royal ever with 7 home runs in first 21 MLB games” and is the “1st Royal ever with 19 RBI in first 21 MLB games”. In 50 seasons of Royals baseball that is nothing to scoff at.
And its not just Royals history that he his rewriting:
Yes, he has been on a tear but if you look even closer you will see that he has done most of this in just 16 MLB games. If you look at his last 16 games (August 11 to September 1, 2018) he has been amazing. In those 16 games (15 starts) he is slashing .315/.373/.704 with 17 hits, 11 runs and 16 RBI’s, including six home runs. As a side note in that time the Royals have a record of 8-8. Even with the success that he is having Ryan is still having his share of problems that need to be worked out as his strikeouts (17) are still way outpacing his walks (5). In addition to his strikeouts and walks he is having massive problems with left handed pitching:
All in all he has shown the ability to adapt to the situation. In a recent game, Ryan, Rex, and the Fox Sports KC TV crew put up a graphic of how Ryan O’Hearn has adapted from his first at bat to his second at bat. The graphic says that his batting average of his first at bat in a game is .143 verses his second at bat in a game that jumps to .533. That is nearly a whopping 400 points difference. That adaptation will serve him well as he gains MLB experience. Hopefully it will help his strikeout rate to go down and his walk rate to go up.
With Duda having been traded and Dozier playing more third base Ryan may have the majority of playing time at first base for the rest of the season. Although September call ups may affect that to some degree. We will see who gets called up after the Omaha Storm Chasers finish up their season on Monday September 3. We may well see Frank get his call up and with O’Hearn’s problems with left handed pitching Frank may get to see some time at first base when a lefty starts the game.