Surprise notes: Miles to go for O'Hearn

Kansas City's No. 7 prospect excited to grow with AFL opportunity

Ryan O'Hearn belted 22 home runs between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas this year. (Shawn E. Davis/MiLB.com)

By Tyler Maun / MiLB.com | October 24, 2016 10:30 AM ET

When the winter comes, there will be plenty of time for Ryan O'Hearn to enjoy things away from the field. But now, there's more baseball to be played.

"You go into an offseason, and you're all excited to relax and be home and stuff," the Royals' No. 7 prospect said Sunday on an Arizona Fall League day off that included laundry and a stop at the pool. "Then two weeks later, you're like, 'All right, it's time for baseball again. What are we doing?'"

Yes, the AFL is suiting Kansas City's first-base and outfield prospect just fine. Through his first seven games with the Surprise Saguaros, O'Hearn is batting .296 with three RBIs while acclimating to some of the Minors' best arms on a daily basis.

"It's cool just to be in a league with so much talent and so many guys that are highly regarded in Minor League Baseball," he said. "The guys I play with and play against right now are going to have careers in the big leagues, so it's tough not to measure yourself up against them."

O'Hearn began the season back with Class A Advanced Wilmington after batting .236/.314/.447 there in 46 games in 2015. His start to the campaign ensured his Carolina League return would be short-lived. O'Hearn slashed .352/.408/.670 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 22 games, playing half of them at the pitchers' haven known as Wilmington's Frawley Stadium and earned an early May promotion to Double-A.

"It was a jump for sure coming from A-ball to finally making the jump up to Double-A, but you've got to expect there are better pitchers," he said. "There are only eight teams in the league, so they learn how to pitch to you. You've got to make adjustments. It's about making adjustments faster and just trying to be as consistent as possible. I think I did a good job.

"Going back to High-A was, at the time, probably not what I wanted to do, but I think it was good for me."

O'Hearn hit .258/.339/.437 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs in 112 games with Northwest Arkansas and is applying those same lessons of adaptability and consistency in the AFL.

"The minute I found out I was going, I was looking forward to it," he said. "I think just to have an opportunity to play in this league isn't something that guys should take lightly. A lot of guys are tired at the end of the season and they want to go home, but really what are you going to do when you go home? This is an unbelievable opportunity. You get to come out and play some more baseball which is what we all love to do."

As for many AFL hitters, the learning curve can be steep. O'Hearn struck out 10 times in his first seven games with the Saguaros, but also picked up hits in six of those seven. The 23-year-old has added five walks to put his on-base percentage at .406.

"I didn't come in here setting number expectations like I need to have this batting average or I need to hit this many home runs," he said. "It's just more about having as many quality at-bats per day as I can have every day. Whether it's an out, whether it's a walk, whatever it is, I just want to have a quality at-bat, really see the pitchers."

O'Hearn also is taking advantage of the opportunity to continue his development in the field and in the clubhouse with a variety of teammates, ranging from fellow Royals infielders Mauricio Ramos and Corey Toups to MLB.com's top overall prospect, Yoan Moncada of the Red Sox. 

"You go to the field every day, and there are 100 people looking for his autograph," O'Hearn said of Moncada. "He's a great player, and it's cool to be able to play next to him because I think he's got a really good career ahead of him. Pretty much everybody on the team, everybody's good. Everybody's a prospect in their own right and their own organization. You just watch them and see what they do, and we all try to learn from each other."

In brief

Feeling Royal: Though he's seen action in just five games, O'Hearn's teammate Toups has hits in all five of them and is batting .348/.375/.609 with a homer, three doubles and three RBIs. Like O'Hearn, Kansas City's No. 30 prospect split 2016 between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas, posting a combined .268/.356/.440 line with 12 homers and 49 RBIs in 127 games.

Feeling Royal, Part 2: Kansas City's No. 10 prospect Josh Staumont has opened eyes in the AFL's early going. Through three starts, Staumont has allowed just one run on five hits over 10 1/3 innings for an 0.87 ERA. The Azusa Pacific product and 2015 second-round pick has struck out 11 while walking four and limiting opponents to a .135 batting average.

Ups and downs: Moncada and No. 2 Twins prospect Nick Gordon got out to scorching starts with the former posting six hits in his first three games and the latter doing it in his first two. They've cooled off since then. Moncada went 1-for-10 in his last three outings to close the week while Gordon went 2-for-11 in a three-game span. Gordon's .375 average still ranks as the fourth-highest mark in the league.

Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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