Orioles' slugger Ryan O'Hearn on the cusp of first All-Star nod a year after DFA

A year after being traded for cash and getting DFA'd, Orioles slugger Ryan O'Hearn is on the cusp of his first career All-Star nomination
Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners
Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

In the top of the third inning of a scoreless game on Wednesday night in Seattle, Orioles' number three hitter Ryan O'Hearn stepped to the plate. And to no one's surprise, O'Hearn cracked a ringing double off the glove of center fielder Julio Rodriguez, plating the first two runs of the game.

In his next at-bat, O'Hearn drilled a solo home run to right-center, increasing the Orioles' lead to 4-0 in a game they would ultimately win, 4-1. Fans' admiration of Ryan O'Hearn has become commonplace in Birdland but that hasn't always been the case.

In what appears to be one of the bigger trade heists of the last five years, the Orioles acquired Ryan O'Hearn from the Royals in January 2023 for cash considerations. Even the Orioles didn't immediately recognize the greatness of O'Hearn: two days after acquiring him, they designated him for assignment.

But O'Hearn passed through waivers, stayed with the Orioles, and eventually got his shot with the big club in April 2023. By now, the story is familiar. O'Hearn worked his way up from occasional starter to regular in 2023, and finished the season with an .802 OPS and 1.2 WAR.

Orioles' slugger Ryan O'Hearn continues to mash in the middle of one of baseball's best lineups

O'Hearn has found another gear in 2024, a level that most people did not know he had. Emerging as the Orioles' regular number 3 hitter against right-handed pitchers, O'Hearn is already up to 1.9 WAR to go along with an .827 OPS. He is batting .289 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI's, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

O'Hearn isn't just smoking line drive after line drive in the middle of the Orioles' impressive lineup. He also isn't striking out. In 242 at-bats, O'Hearn has only struck out 28 times, easily the best K rate on the team.

For reference, Austin Hays has struck out 34 times in 135 at bats. Cedric Mullins, who has 13 more at bats than O'Hearn, has struck out 65 times. It's no surprise then that O'Hearn has the third lowest chase rate and second lowest whiff rate on the team.

And O'Hearn has drawn well-deserved recognition for his play. O'Hearn was named as a finalist to start for the American League All-Star squad at designated hitter, narrowly losing out to star Yordan Alvarez, 52% to 48%. With his strong numbers in the American League's best lineup, O'Hearn still has a strong chance to make the All-Star team as a reserve.

In a two-year stretch of incredible stories for the Orioles, Ryan O'Hearn's meteoric rise from being designated for assignment to potential All-Star has to rank near the top. He is one of the best hitters on the best team in the American League. Not bad for a guy who was traded for cash and subsequently designated for assignment a year and a half ago.