This would mark the third straight strong spring performance for the Royals’ Ryan O’Hearn, so why would his hot start change our opinion? Is there any reason to think that he could develop into a strong potential sleeper? First let’s take a look at the numbers from this spring (through Tuesday):
.343 (12-35), 5 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB
Obviously the number that jumps out is the power, and it’s something he’s shown each of the past two seasons in the Majors. Over 540 PA he’s slugged 26 HR (and added 23 doubles and 3 triples) courtesy of a 19.8% HR/FB. There’s nothing unbelievable in that, and his Statcast numbers only backup the power potential as he’s posted an exit velocity of 90.8 mph (the league average in ’19 was 87.5) and a launch angle of 14.4 (the league average in ’19 was 11.2).
Even his approach hasn’t been poor at the highest level, with an 11.3% SwStr% and 28.4% O-Swing%. Throw in a 42.4% Hard% and a willingness to use the entire field (25.1% Oppo%), all of which should support better than his .249 BABIP, and the question isn’t whether or not he has the upside it’s more whether or not he can translate that upside when the real games start.
There also may not be the risk of a platoon, despite being left-handed, as Baseball America described him prior to the 2017 season by saying:
His hand strength and average or better bat speed allow O’Hearn to get to his plus raw power in games, and he isn’t baffled by lefthanded pitching.
Expected to open the year as the Royals’ starting first baseman and going virtually for free on draft day, you could do far worse than rolling the dice on O’Hearn. The upside is a .270ish hitter (or maybe a little bit more) with 25+ HR. Late in your draft, that’s worth the gamble.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, Baseball Savant, Baseball America
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings: