The news, it seems, is always the same. Good, but always the same when it comes to a pair of top KC Royals prospects headed full-steam toward the major leagues.
And Friday was no different for Omaha Storm Chasers Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto. The Chasers lost an extra-inning heartbreaker to Columbus, but the inevitable path toward Kansas City Witt and Pratto are cutting for themselves continued unabated.
Witt, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Kansas City’s No. 1 prospect, slugged a two-run homer to highlight a three-run eighth inning that gave Omaha a short-lived lead, and Pratto, Pipeline’s No. 5 Royal prospect, hit a solo home run in the first for the Storm Chasers’ first lead of the night.
For both players, the home runs were their sixth since their stellar performances at Double-A Northwest Arkansas moved the Royals to promote them to the Triple-A Storm Chasers last month. If Witt and Pratto keep up what they’ve maintained most of the season, the Chasers will likely become their last minor league stops.
Since arriving in Omaha July 20, Witt and Pratto haven’t missed many beats. Through Friday, Witt is slashing .292/.354/.597 in 16 games after putting up a .295/.369/.570 line with the Naturals. After his 2-for-4 effort Friday, Pratto’s Triple-A slash is .262/.361/.656, favorably comparable to his .271/.404/.570 at Northwest Arkansas.
Witt has 22 home runs and 62 RBIs between the Naturals and Storm Chasers, Pratto 21 and 60. With two months left in Omaha’s season, there’s really no telling how much better their numbers will become.
But will they still be Storm Chasers when the campaign concludes?
Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto should get time with the KC Royals in 2021.
So far this season, Kansas City’s personnel gurus haven’t signaled any urgency to promote Witt or Pratto to the big leagues. Their cautious and deliberate development of Witt continues, and it’s understandable if they’re taking a wait-and-see approach to Pratto after a terrible 2019 campaign tarnished his promise.
Nevertheless, both players deserve at least a taste of the big leagues before the Royals wrap up their 2021 campaign the first weekend in October.
Getting Witt and Pratto to Kansas City this season is, however, a bit easier said than done. The days of flooding major league rosters with prospects in September are gone; no longer can teams expand their rosters to 40. Now, clubs can carry only 28 players—an increase of only two—on their active rosters beginning Sept. 1.
Witt is a logical choice for one of those coveted spots. He’s seen big league pitching only in spring training and, considering he’s the KC Royals’ unchallenged No. 1 prospect and the way he’s dominating minor league pitching, it’s probably time to give him at least a brief test against major leaguers.
But should the club summon him before September? Yes, but only if it plans to play him almost every day. Bringing Witt up to play only occasionally will do him more harm than good—at this point in his career, Witt needs to play regularly. Barring injuries to current Royal infielders (or reinjury in Adalberto Mondesi’s case) Witt should stay where he is until the big club begins to wind things down for its regulars next month.
Pratto’s situation is slightly different. While Witt’s greater versatility makes him easier to squeeze into a lineup, Pratto is almost exclusively a first baseman who, if promoted, won’t have as many position options and will take playing time away from Carlos Santana.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Santana is a proven major league hitter and first-sacker playing on the first year of a two-season deal; the Royals know what he can do and, at 35 (36 in April), Santana might welcome some rest down the stretch.
Then there’s the fact Witt and Pratto aren’t the only prospects Kansas City probably wants to look at before this season ends, so roster spots may be at a premium. Don’t be surprised if the Royals want to give starter Jackson Kowar and outfielder Kyle Isbel second shots, and catcher MJ Melendez his first shot, at the big leagues before the campaign ends.
Accommodating more than two additional players in September isn’t impossible: the KC Royals have the option of dropping pieces they might not plan to bring back in 2022. Wade Davis, Michael A. Taylor, and Hanser Alberto come to mind.
Things could get interesting between now and Sept. 1 for Witt and Pratto. They could get even better news than they’re making now.
Roughly three weeks remain until the KC Royals can expand their roster. Then we should know if Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto will see Kauffman Stadium this season.