The time has come for the KC Royals to start playing their budding stars.
Playing some hot prospects was the silver lining to the cloud of Kansas City missing 10 regulars in Toronto last week. Forced to replace them for four games, the Royals reached down to the minors and called up Nick Pratto, Nate Eaton, Maikel García, Freddy Fermin and Michael Massey, none of whom had played in a major league game before, and Ángel Zerpa, Sebastian Rivero, Brewer Hicklen, Gabe Speier and Collin Snider, all of whom had.
Naturally, all eyes were on Pratto, Eaton, García, Fermin and Massey. All saw action during the four-game series with the Blue Jays and, while results were mixed, they brought refreshing energy to the field.
That was especially the case in the series opener, which the suddenly younger Royals won 3-1. Pratto started at first base and Eaton in center, and Zerpa, pitching on just three days’ rest after winning his first big league game as the club’s 27th man in a doubleheader against Detroit—and by rule being immediately optioned back to the minors—held the Jays to one run in five innings. Eaton slammed his first major league home run in the ninth.
Kansas City dropped the three remaining games, but none were without encouraging moments for the newest Royals. Pratto played first base all four games, went 2-for-4 in Game 2, and clubbed his first big league homer in the finale. Massey, who’d been lighting up minor league pitching in his stints at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, pinch hit in Game 2, played second and went 2-for-4 in Game 3, and played third and added another hit in Game 4.
The Royals returned all 10 call-ups to the minors when they restored the 10 unvaccinated players to the roster Monday.
Now, the club needs to call back some of those youngsters at the earliest opportunity, which may well come when it trades Benintendi, possibly Merrifield, and perhaps even Michael A. Taylor and Hunter Dozier. Trading them opens left and center fields, where Benintendi and Taylor play, time at second and in right, where Merrifield spends most of his time, at first base where Dozier frequently plays, and creates immediate openings for Eaton and Hicklen (center or left), Pratto (first and left), and Massey (second and possibly third).
And KC should find a way, before the season is out, to squeeze Zerpa into its shaky rotation.
Playing all or most of these minor leaguers will also complement the additions of Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino, who are making themselves quite comfortable in the majors.
The Royals aren’t going anywhere this season. The time is ripe to play the kids.
The season’s second half is upon Kansas City. The club needs to avoid last place, trade at least a couple of players, and promote some key minor leaguers.