Grading the KC Royals: The good and bad of Nick Pratto

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The 2021 baseball season ended with KC Royals fans eagerly anticipating the major league debut of Nick Pratto, a hot-hitting minor league first baseman who proved after a disastrous 2019 season (.195 in High-A) that he really was a dangerously good hitter by slashing .265/.385/.602 with a .988 OPS, 36 homers, and 98 RBIs in a season split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Pratto arrived at the club’s post-lockout 2022 spring training camp ranked Kansas City’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline and slashed .333/.545/.667 in 10 Cactus League games but started the season at Triple-A Omaha.

And Omaha is where signs surfaced that all wasn’t right with Pratto’s bat, and that he might not be the Royals’ first base solution when the inevitable trade of Carlos Santana occurred.

Pratto started slowly with the Storm Chasers. He hit only .245 in April, .206 in May, and was at .233 when Kansas City traded Santana to Seattle and replaced him with Vinnie Pasquantino.

Pratto, though, didn’t have to wait long for his own chance—KC summoned him to Toronto in mid-July as one of 10 replacements for the 10 Royals whose vaccination status prevented them from playing in Canada; he went 4-for-14 (.286) with a double and his first big league home run in the four-game series, headed back to Omaha when it ended, but was back with the Royals by July 22.

How did he do?

Nick Pratto’s first season play was both good and bad with the KC Royals.

Let’s take the good first. Pratto’s defense was excellent; he’s as much fun to watch in the field as former Kansas City four-time Gold Glover Eric Hosmer. Although the Royals tinkered with him a bit in the outfield (seven games in left, one in right) he shines most at first base, where he made great plays look routine. He didn’t make an error in 323 chances there (and also played errorless ball in the outfield).

His work at first was so good that he’s destined to cause the Royals to move Pasquantino to DH … if Pratto proves he can hit big league pitching.

And therein lies the rub of his 2022 season.

Pratto just didn’t hit. He slashed a miserable .174/.265/.368 after returning to the majors in late July and, after going 0-for-8 and striking out five times in the first two games of a three-contest set at Minnesota, found himself back in Omaha for the duration of the season.

Coming so late in the season made the demotion odd, but it was justified. Pratto was struggling with big league pitching and clearly needed a break. Unfortunately, he hit safely only three times in 28 at-bats after returning to Omaha and ended 2022 with a .228 average there and a .184 mark in Kansas City.

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Lying at the heart of Pratto’s season-long weak bat was his tendency to strike out. He fanned at a 36.3% rate with the Royals and 30.5% of the time with Omaha. Those numbers will keep him in the minors.

So, what grade to assign Pratto for his 2022 big league performance? Even being a rookie won’t help much when a player hits .184 and strikes out as often as Pratto. But his sparkling defense mitigates just enough to save him from a D- or worse. We’ll give him a D+.

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Nick Pratto was good and bad in 2022.