One trend I have noticed in preparing for the 2019 season is that first base isn’t as strong as it used to be, so we need to be a little more creative when building our teams. The top tier studs still have their value, it’s that at this point there are less of them. Additionally we have a lot more compression in the market, and the next few tiers may not be as attractive.
We have to work a little bit harder to look for sleepers and value, and that leads us to Ryan O’Hearn.
By no means am I expecting O’Hearn to be a Top 15 option this season, but there is no reason why he can’t outperform his draft position and be a viable corner infielder, utility option or injury replacement. After all he is the 35th first baseman coming off the board with an ADP of 359, so it shouldn’t be too hard for him to outperform his current price.
Over the past three seasons, mostly spent in the minor leagues between Double and Triple-A, O’Hearn has consistently been a source of power with 22, 22 and 23 home runs respectively to go along with 78, 64 and 82 RBI. Last season he earned a promotion to Kansas City after hitting 11 HR and driving in 52 runs in 406 plate appearances at Triple-A.
He followed that up by hitting another 12 HR to go along with 30 RBI in 170 plate appearances with the Royals while improving his OPS from .713 to .950. While O’Hearn hit .262 with the Royals, I wouldn’t bank on him being much more than a .240 hitter.
A main factor, and what helps to supress his value, is that he struggles to make contact. He has improved his strikeout rate as of late, but the first baseman will strike out about 25% of the time. With a 12% walk rate at the Major League level last season, which was consistent with his minor league track record, his on base percentage won’t be a complete liability.
Currently O’Hearn is slated to bat fifth in Kansas City’s lineup, so while the lineup is among the weaker in the Majors, there will still be some RBI opportunities. Last season his power metrics were impressive, but it remains to be seen how believable they truly will be.
From a Statcast perspective O’Hearn was impressive last season, and that is part of what leads me down the road of including him as one of my end game options. If he can keep up his 17.7 degree launch angle, 12.5% barrel rate, 91.4 miles per hour exit velocity and 44.2% hard hit rate, then he will become a lot more well known as the season progresses.