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Hok Talk: Redemption Tour?

A couple of team scapegoats have been among the best the last couple of weeks

Kansas City Royals v Tampa Bay Rays
Alcides Escobar in the Trop
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I wanted to talk a bit, today, about Ryan O’Hearn. And we will, I promise. But while I was looking up his stats I couldn’t help but notice that while Whit Merrifield continues to lap the team as the best offensive player there was a surprising name in the second place position for fWAR and wRC+, according to FanGraphs*. If you saw the picture that leads this article you’ll have already guessed that that player is none other than Mr. Death and Taxes, himself. Over the last two weeksm he’s walked at an almost respectable, at least for the Royals, 7.9% rate. He’s also batted over .300 and slugged over .500. All told, Esky has hit 40% above league average for the last two weeks. It’s kind of insane.

*All stats are as of Friday afternoon

On the pitching side guys that might otherwise have been given up on are leading the way, there, as well. Jakob Junis has compiled an impressive 0.6 fWAR in three starts primarily by not giving up a single long ball and striking out more than six times as many batters as he has walked. Brandon Maurer has six scoreless innings and appearances in the same span which has seen him strike out 12 while walking only three. It’s really hard to put up even 0.3 fWAR in 6 innings but Brandon has done it with some outstanding pitching.

Does this mean that Maurer and Junis are completely fixed? Probably not. They are at least young enough and talented enough and have shown enough flashes in the past to think it could be possible. Does this mean Alcides Escobar deserves to continue starting over a younger and more talented Adalberto Mondesi? Especially since Mondesi has been struggling over the same span with a 67 wRC+ and no home runs? Nah. It’s impressive that Esky managed to put together such a hot streak but he’s still not a part of the future and if Mondesi is ever going to be he probably is going to need to play pretty often. To be far Esky has only played one more game than Mondesi over the given time span.

But let’s talk about O’Hearn

Ryan has been pretty impressive himself, over the last two weeks, and is the only player other than Escobar and Mondesi to be an above-average hitter in that time. There are still some warning signs with him, unfortunately. Despite a promising walk rate to start his major league career, he’s only walked 5.3% of the time while striking out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances. He has also not hit lefties at all so far. He has half the at-bats against them as he does the righties but he’s got only a single hit, the solo bomb against Blake Snell and the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. He’s also struck out in 9 of his 19 plate appearances against lefties which is...pretty ungood.

I’ve got some really good news for you, though. If O’Hearn is the strong-side of a platoon bat there is still some serious value in that. And the Royals already have a guy in-house who could play the weak side. I am, of course, speaking of none other than Frank “The Tank” Schwindel, currently destroying the Pacific League for the Omaha Storm Chasers. It seems every week that goes by Minda produces another This Week in the Minors cataloging the many hits of Schwindel. Frank has been hitting like a monster for the last two seasons but his numbers against right-handers - .266/.317/.469/.786 - pale against the destruction he has unleashed on left-handed pitching, this season - .346/.400/.617/1.017.

This time next week it will be September and we should all probably be prepared to riot of Lucas Duda is still on the roster and Frank Schwindel is not. It makes all kinds of sense to let these two young first-basemen showcase what they can do against some MLB caliber pitching over the final month. They could very well herald the beginning of the future if Dayton and Ned are willing to let them platoon. Seriously, Ryan and Frank at 25 and 26 respectively could still be in their theoretical primes when Dayton plans to be competing again. All it will take is a willingness to platoon and they could add up to a truly terrifying combination for Royals opponents in the near future.