Royals Option Ryan O’Hearn, Recall Jorge Bonifacio

The Royals announced today that they have optioned first baseman Ryan O’Hearn. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by outfielder Jorge Bonifacio.
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It’s a somewhat disappointing moment for an organization that needs all the bright spots it can get. O’Hearn came out of nowhere in 2018, slashing a whopping .262/.353/.597 and popping a dozen long balls over 213 plate appearances. That didn’t really line up with his upper-minors numbers, leaving cause for skepticism, but the K.C. club was undoubtedly hopeful it had stumbled onto a gem.

Things just haven’t gone as hoped thus far in 2019. O’Hearn has maintained an 11+% walk rate and even slightly lowered his strikeout rate to 24.4%, but his power has fallen off a cliff. Through 213 plate appearances, he has hit half as many dingers as he did last year and has seen sharp declines in barrel percent and exit velocity. The result is less than half the isolated power mark he posted in 2018 (.336 versus .145).

The Royals provided O’Hearn with ample leash but ultimately had to make a move. While he tries to figure things out at Triple-A, veteran slugger Lucas Duda will try to find his own groove in the majors. If Duda can take advantage of steadier playing time, he could yet be a trade piece for the Royals.

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As for Bonifacio, this isn’t exactly a case of a former top prospect forcing his way back into the picture. The once-hyped 26-year-old disappointed in the majors last year and hasn’t responded thus far in 2019. After a brutal winter league showing, he has started the current campaign with 240 plate appearances of .195/.250/.395 hitting at Omaha. It seems the plan is to use him as a gap-filler while Hunter Dozier works back from the injured list.

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