KC Royals: Has the Vinnie Pasquantino dynamic changed?

When will the KC Royals bring Vinnie Pasquantino to the major leagues?

Three weeks ago, when the KC Royals had lost six in a row and twice as many games as they’d won, the answer seemed clear. Pasquantino, the club’s fourth-best prospect per MLB Pipeline and its latest hope to finally fill Eric Hosmer’s shoes at first base, was doing nothing to disprove the popular notion that a promotion to Kansas City was overdue. Proof of big league readiness was in his Triple-A numbers—a 1.034 OPS buoyed by a .296 average and superb .396 OBP, and complemented by 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in 42 games.

It seemed the time could be no more ripe than then to replace struggling Carlos Santana with Pasquantino. Other than the Royals’ obvious and understandable desire to see Santana’s market value improve in his contract year, little reason existed to continue playing him: trapped in a season-long slump at the plate (year-long if you hold his 2021 second-half .176, produced while slowed by a nagging hip injury, totally against him), Santana was hitting just .167.

Now, three weeks later, Santana is still Kansas City’s first baseman and Pasquantino continues to bide his time at Omaha.

Why? Perhaps the dynamic has changed.

Performances might be holding back KC Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino.

While the fortunes of the Royals themselves haven’t changed in three weeks—they’re 7-13 in that span and 14-28 overall—those of Pasquantino and Santana have.

The June Pasquantino doesn’t look anything like the April and May Pasquantino, who was slashing .304/.395/.679 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs when he ended May with a homer against Indianapolis. But June is ugly so far: he’s hitting .182 with only three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer) and two multi-hit games.

Santana is headed in the opposite direction. His three-week average is .240, up 73 points from the .167 he was hitting when that period began and his OBP, an un-Santana-like .303 then, is .377 since. He’s still batting just .191, but the improvement isn’t difficult to see.

Or appreciate. The better plate work, especially if it continues, might attract the trade deadline suitors Kansas City wants to see. A deal guarantees some kind of return; releasing Santana guarantees none.

So it is that the Royals, a patient club even amid a mediocre season, will likely wait even longer to call up Pasquantino. His present slump doesn’t commend him to an immediate promotion (although MJ Melendez was hitting only .167 when the Royals brought him to KC last month, and he’s working out well); of greater consequence at the moment, though, is Santana’s moderate resurgence.

The Royals aren’t likely to interrupt Santana while he’s busy rebuilding his trade value. Keeping him in the lineup in the hope his bat gets hotter is, to be sure, a roll of the dice, but his .344/.475/.500 June line is enough to justify the gamble. That means the Pasquantino dynamic has changed a bit. Temporarily and slightly, that is, but changed nonetheless.

Pasquantino will be a Royal soon enough, and Santana will be gone as soon as Kansas City finds a suitable trade partner or another Santana slump warrants the club eating what’s left of the $10.5 million it owes him for 2022.

The Vinnie Pasquantino Watch continues.