He might become a star. He has a lot of power, a tool becoming increasingly important to even the KC Royals, a club historically more interested in just getting on base and moving lines than big blasts. His glove is superb. And he plays first base, a troubled position for the Royals ever since Eric Hosmer took his bat and four Gold Gloves to San Diego after the 2017 season.
But for all the potential good he brought to Kansas City this year, Nick Pratto left much to be desired, so much so that the Royals sent him back to the minors in September. He didn’t disappoint at first base—far from it—but the .184 he hit in 49 games suggests he might not be ready for major league pitching.
His struggles at the plate raise an important question.
Should the Royals count on him in 2023?
The KC Royals face uncertainty when it comes to Nick Pratto for next season.
To understand how Pratto fared with the bat is to understand why Kansas City must think hard about him going into the 2023 campaign.
He wasn’t good. Yes, he hit seven home runs, which extrapolates to slightly more than 23 over 162 games, a performance certainly acceptable for a rookie. But that sub-Mendoza Line .184 speaks volumes, even to those who distrust batting average as a reliable measure of plate performance—how many players who hit .184 were truly good hitters in the season they did so?
Pratto also fought, as his .271 OBP suggests, to find any ways to get on base. And he struck out 36.3% of the time, the worst K% of his professional career and a rate too high to guarantee a long big league tenure.
Those numbers explain why Kansas City deemed it best to demote Pratto Sept. 17; although only 17 games remained on the big league schedule, the time had come for him to search for answers elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Pratto went 3-for-28 (.107), and hitless in his last six games, after returning to Omaha. Kansas City didn’t recall him for the last week of its season.
Now, Pratto must prove himself worthy of a Royals roster spot, which he can do if he rediscovers the bat that propelled him to a stellar 2021 season (36 homers, 98 RBIs, .265/.385/.602 with Northwest Arkansas and Omaha). It’s a battle he’s fought and won before—that 2021 effort followed the miserable .191 and nine homers he struggled to in 2019 at High-A Wilmington (there was no minor league season in 2020).
Whether the club can count on Pratto will require scrutinizing his performance for more than the 49 big league games he played this season. Because they probably aren’t going to contend next year, the Royals can afford to give him a longer look; but they shouldn’t prolong what may be the inevitable if, by midseason, he still isn’t hitting. Vinnie Pasquantino, who will spend most of his time at DH if Pratto comes through, doesn’t have Pratto’s Gold Glove-caliber defense, but he proved his big league mettle at the plate this year and is more than serviceable at first base.
Should Kansas City rely on Nick Pratto? It’s up to him.