It’s no secret the KC Royals have a plethora of young talent in the minor leagues. This is especially true with pitching considering Kansas City’s more recent drafts, including this year when the Royals chose 12 hurlers with their 21 picks.
However, it looks like two key non-pitching prospects could get their call to the majors sooner rather than later.
On Sunday, the club promoted Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto to Triple-A to play for the Omaha Storm Chasers. Per MLB Pipeline, Witt and Pratto are the organization’s No.1 and No.5 prospects.
Both played a total of 60 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before receiving their promotions. And they earned the move up for outstanding minor league performances this season.
Both KC Royals prospects were outmatching their Double-A competition.
The time had definitely come for Witt and Pratto to be promoted. Both had outgrown Double-A and the pitching there.
Witt was the KC Royals’ first pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, and played 37 games in Rookie ball that year where he slashed .262/.317/.354 with a .670 OPS, 27 RBIs, nine stolen bases, and a .323 BABIP.
After the 2020 minor league season was cancelled, Witt was assigned to play at the Double-A level at the start of 2021, which undoubtedly disappointed many fans wanting to see him play in Kauffman Stadium immediately. While at Northwest Arkansas, he slashed .292/.367/.564 with a .931 OPS and 16 home runs, 50 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 44 runs, 25 walks, 30 extra-base hits, and a .335 BABIP. Considering he had a slow May, batting just .233, it’s remarkable that Witt had a .343 June and .294 July before being promoted.
He also improved his fielding percentage at shortstop from .959 in 2019 to .975. He also spent eight games at third base with a 1.000 fielding percentage.
Pratto, like Witt, is also a first round draft pick (2017). After a less than stellar 2019 when he slashed .191/.278/.310 at High-A Wilmington, he played well in the Cactus League this spring and received the nod to begin 2021 at Northwest Arkansas.
He started out hot, hitting .308 in May, which helped him to an excellent 2021 Double-A average of .273 and a .405 OBP when he got the call to Omaha. He slugged 15 home runs, stole seven bases, and scored 44 runs. Pratto also had 32 extra-base hits, which surpassed his 2019 number of 31, and a .352 BABIP. He recorded a stellar .998 fielding percentage at first base, committing only one error.
Both Witt and Pratto were chosen to play in the Futures Game earlier this month for their great Double-A seasons. Neither had a hit, but Witt hit a 113 mph liner and another at 103 mph, and Pratto drew a walk.
So it was that the KC brass finally saw fit to advance the two young stars.
Now, can they advance even farther before this season ends?
Could Bobby Witt Jr. or Nick Pratto still play with the KC Royals this year?
Kansas City fans are eager to watch Witt and Pratto play and there has been much clamor for that to happen this season. But the jump to Triple-A is a big one, and even hot prospects like Witt and Pratto may need a good bit of time to adjust to the higher level of play. And there are only a little more than two months left in Omaha’s season, and KC’s, so time is short.
But Witt or Pratto (or both) making it to Kansas City before this campaign ends is not totally out of the question. As our friends at Royals Review recently pointed out, Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer got to the big leagues in 2011 without spending much time at Omaha. Performing well there was the key for both—Hosmer thrashed his Triple-A opponents, hitting .439 with three home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .500 BABIP in 26 contests. And Perez’s 12-game Omaha line was .333/.347/.500.
And Perez and Hosmer are not the only Royal stars who got promoted to Kansas City by having short but good stints at Omaha.
Take Zack Greinke, for example. He made it to Omaha in 2004 and pitched just six times before his 1-1, 2.51 ERA earned him his spot with the KC Royals, where he later won a Cy Young award.
Billy Butler played only 57 games at Triple-A in 2007, but made it to the big leagues that season; he stayed for a bit, then took one short trip back to Omaha before the Royals called him up again and kept him for the rest of the campaign. He hit .291 with 13 homers for Omaha and .292 with eight homers for KC.
And like their teammates Hosmer and Perez, Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera found themselves playing in Omaha in 2011 and excellent, albeit short, performances vaulted them to Kansas City that year.
Duffy was 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in just eight games when the Royals summoned him in May. (He returned to Omaha later that season before going back to KC, then spent some limited time in Omaha before eventually sticking with the Royals).
Herrera started the season in High-A, moved to Double-A, and arrived in Omaha late in July. But he made a statement by going 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA and six saves in 14 games to earn a spot with the KC Royals.
Thus, Witt and Pratto could earn playing time with the KC Royals this season. Whether that happens is still a question and a matter of how they perform in Omaha.
Current Royal Nicky Lopez is a prime example of this. After his promotion to Triple-A in 2018, he hit .278 in 57 games. After getting more seasoning with an extra 31 games in 2019, Lopez hit .353 before getting the nod to the big leagues.
However, if Witt and Pratto do well, fans may be able to see them as mid-August or September call-ups, unless injuries to players on the Royals’ roster result in earlier moves up.
Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto, two of Kansas City’s hottest prospects, were recently promoted to Triple-A Omaha. History shows they may gear up in the majors soon.