Nick Pratto is a first-round pick that the KC Royals need to succeed. Thus far, the results for the first baseman have been mixed.
The KC Royals drafted Nick Pratto with their first-round pick in 2017. He was the 14th overall selection. Taking a high school bat in the first round can be a risky endeavor. But it is the type of selection that Dayton Moore needs to get right if we are going to compete over the next few years.
Pratto’s first full season of pro ball was promising. As a 19-year-old in Lexington, he hit .280. I would have liked him to have taken a few more walks, but his on-base percentage of .343 was respectable. He hit fourteen home runs and an impressive 33 doubles. You sprinkle in a couple of triples and you end up with a slugging percentage of .443. He was not exactly blowing away the competition but he was more than holding his own.
The hope for 2019 was that Pratto would take his .786 OPS from 2018 and build upon it. It did not really work out that way. In Wilmington, almost all his numbers dropped. His batting average would drop nearly 90 points. His slugging percentage would drop all the way down to .310. That is simply not an acceptable level of pop for a major league first baseman.
A corner infielder taken in the first round needs to hit more than 9 home runs over 124 games. Perhaps the most concerning aspect to Pratto’s 2019 season was that his strikeout percentage jumped from 28 percent to over 34 percent. If you were looking for a bright spot in his 2019 numbers, it would be that his walk rate went up to over 10 percent.
Pratto is only 21 years old. There is no reason to panic just yet. Wilmington is a tough place for hitters, and especially young sluggers, to perform well. That does not fully explain his .588 OPS, but it should give us pause from drawing any grand conclusions.
It is worth noting that in Eric Hosmer’s first shot at A+ plus ball he also struggled. Over 27 games in 2009 his On Base Percentage was a measly .280, almost identical to Pratto’s in 2019. Hosmer failed to even slug .300 over that first taste of Wilmington.
Hosmer would go on to obliterate A+ ball so thoroughly his second time through the league that he would be playing for the Royals in Kansas City by 2011. There is no reason Pratto cannot put together a similar turnaround. But, make no mistake, we need him to.
The KC Royals have shown themselves, over our current rebuild, to be unwilling to make big bold moves to boost their minor leagues. So, we need to groom our own cornerstone bats to build an offense around. This continues to be an area of concern, and one which the Royals seem eager to address. The 2018 draft, no matter how good it was, will not save us. Pratto’s performance over the next couple of seasons will be a good test of how well Dayton Moore has done with his second rebuild.