MESA, Ariz. -- Nos. 66 and 69 on the Royals' roster have been doing a number on opposing pitchers in the Cactus League lately.First basemen Ryan O'Hearn and Frank Schwindel won't be cracking the Opening Day roster, but the cracks off their bats have been plentiful in recent days.• Spring
MESA, Ariz. -- Nos. 66 and 69 on the Royals' roster have been doing a number on opposing pitchers in the Cactus League lately.
First basemen Ryan O'Hearn and Frank Schwindel won't be cracking the Opening Day roster, but the cracks off their bats have been plentiful in recent days.
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The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Schwindel went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Sunday's 11-9 win over the Cubs at Sloan Park, and his center-field shot off Tyler Chatwood in the first inning was his fifth homer in an eight at-bat span. He also doubled.
"Frank the Tank," said starter Danny Duffy. "I saw him last year in Triple-A [Omaha]. He's got some dummy pop, man. That guy top-hands everything. He looks like James Dozier, only 8 feet tall. Kid's on fire about the game. I'm really excited for what the future has for him. The dude goes out and rakes and plays his butt off. There's nothing more you could ask for."
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The 26-year-old Schwindel is having himself a week. But so is O'Hearn, who has four homers in his last three games, including one on St. Patrick's Day that felt particularly appropriate, given the last name. The 24-year-old O'Hearn is the more highly regarded prospect of the two, ranking 18th on the club's list per MLB Pipeline. A left-handed bat with a compact but powerful swing, O'Hearn has work to do on his defensive game, but his bat has received an important endorsement from none other than George Brett.
"George liked him from the minute he saw him," manager Ned Yost said. "If George likes somebody, I always try to keep my eye on him, because George understands what good hitting is about."
Of course, if you've watched the Royals in recent days, you don't have to be George Brett to take note of the power O'Hearn and Schwindel can provide.
"What the two of them have been able to do the last week is amazing," Yost said.
Alas, with Lucas Duda slotted in at first, there is no easy path to big league playing time for either slugger at the start of 2018. They'll likely land back at Omaha. But the power they've provided out here has the eye of evaluators and, of course, their teammates.
Gory spring for Gordon
On the opposite end of the offensive spectrum is Alex Gordon. He doesn't have a hit since March 6, which means nothing and everything.
It means nothing because, well, duh: Spring Training stats don't count, especially for a guy like Gordon whose roster spot and lineup position is secure. And it means everything because, even in the Cactus League, it's hard not to notice when a player coming off two subpar statistical seasons is off to a very, very slow spring start.
"He's hitting like .103," Yost said on Sunday morning, and the "like" was unnecessary because Yost had nailed the number. Gordon's struggles continued as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Sunday, dropping his average to .093.
What's going on with Gordon?
"He'll find it," Yost said. "It's just a matter of timing, more than anything else. It's such a big, strong swing that it's timing. If he's a tick late, that's normally what his issues are."
All four of Gordon's spring hits came in his first six games. He's 0-for-28 with 12 strikeouts dating to March 7 and 4-for-43 overall. It bears repeating that nobody's fretting the numbers here in Arizona, where Mike Moustakas was once a Cactus League MVP type before he ever figured it out in the big leagues. But when the lights go on for real, Gordon has some serious catching up to do if he's going to get back to being at least a league average offensive contributor. Over the last two years (the first two years of his four-year, $72 million contract), Gordon has contributed just a .214/.302/.346 slash. Last season, his 62 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) mark tied teammate Alcides Escobar for the second-worst among qualified hitters in MLB.
Gordon's line-drive percentage (24.4) was consistent with his career norm, but he did see an uptick in ground balls (42.6 percent).
"The rollover is his huge culprit," Yost said.
The 80-game suspension of Jorge Bonifacio pretty much ensured Jorge Soler, who is out of Minor League options, will see his fair share of time in the Royals' outfield at the start of this season. But there's a difference between being handed a job and earning one, and Soler continues to prove his worth in this camp.
On Sunday, he faced the Cubs team that traded him in the Wade Davis deal and put on a show in a 3-for-3 effort, going deep off Chatwood in the second for his sixth homer of the spring. Soler later lined a base hit and stole second en route to a run scored in the fourth. The slimmed-down Soler has also looked good in the outfield this spring.
Soler's spring could lead the Royals to roll out a lot of lineups like the one they used on Sunday, with Gordon in left, Jonathan Jay in center and Soler in right.
Name to note
Less than a year after he was taken out of high school with the 14th overall pick in the MLB Draft, the Royals gave No. 2 prospect Nick Pratto a start at DH on Saturday vs. the Rangers. One NL scout in attendance was "shocked" to see Pratto's name in the lineup and impressed with what he saw from the 19-year-old kid, who homered in the game.
"He really battled in his at-bats," the scout said. "He hit an absolute shot off Jesse Chavez. He's not very big, but he can flat-out hit."
The Royals have their last off-day of the Cactus League schedule on Monday before resuming play on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. CT against the Giants at Surprise Stadium. Watch it live on MLB.TV as Ian Kennedy will get the starting nod. Blaine Boyer, Kelvin Herrera and Brad Keller are also scheduled to throw for Kansas City.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.