Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino.
KC Royals prospects Vinnie Pasquantino and MJ Melendez have more in common than just the excellent minor league breakout seasons and power bursts that thrust both into the club’s future star spotlight in 2021.
For the time being at least, they’re blocked.
Despite last season’s glittering numbers, the road to Kansas City for both young players simply isn’t wide open. Melendez hammered more home runs (41) than any other minor leaguer, drove in 103 runs and had a 1.011 OPS last season, but as a catcher finds himself behind Salvador Perez; Pasquantino, who divided his time between High-A and Double-A, hit 24 homers and slashed .300/.394/.563, but his path to first base is impeded by Carlos Santana and Nick Pratto.
So it is both players are fighting an uphill battle for big league jobs this spring. And Pasquantino’s may be the most difficult to win. While the organization moved Melendez around a bit last year—he saw limited action at third base—Pasquantino hasn’t played anywhere in the field other than first. The Royals can bring Melendez up as a backup catcher and work him at other spots, but they don’t have such a ready option with Pasquantino.
And that’s unfortunate. Success at the plate has been Pasquantino’s hallmark since he broke into pro ball with Kansas City’s Appalachian League rookie ball entry in 2019. He clubbed 14 homers with 53 RBIs and a .294 average in 57 games at Burlington and then, after the canceled 2020 minor league season, exploded with last year’s superb performance.
How, though, will he play this season?
A good minor league campaign awaits KC Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino.
Pasquantino brings a two-season minor league line of .298/.386/.573 with 54 doubles, 38 homers, 137 RBIs, and .993 fielding percentage into 2022. And there’s no reason to believe MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 Kansas City prospect won’t enjoy a third successful year.
Pasquantino began last season at High-A Quad Cities and hit .291 with 13 homers in 61 games before the Royals promoted him to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Advancing a level changed nothing for him—he added 11 homers, equaled the 42 runs he drove in for the River Bandits, and improved his batting average 19 points to .310 for the Storm Chasers.
But even those numbers and a hot Cactus League performance won’t get Pasquantino to Kansas City for Opening Day—incumbent first baseman Santana will, unless the Royals move him during spring training, start at first, and Pratto will get first shot at the position if the club ends up trading Santana.
Pasquantino, then, will start 2022 back at Northwest Arkansas, at least until the Royals determine where Pratto will play. But Pasquantino will eventually find his way to Triple-A Omaha and add to his already fine minor league numbers. Only if Santana moves on, which he’ll likely do no later than the trade deadline, or Pratto stumbles significantly when he moves up, will Pasquantino get an extended shot with the big club.
Vinnie Pasquantino will have a solid minor league season and move a bit closer to the big leagues in 2022.