3 early, but bold, KC Royals predictions for the 2023 season
Nick Pratto isn't going to win an everyday job with the KC Royals.
A regular role with Kansas City seemed to be Nick Pratto's when the Royals welcomed him to spring training last year. After all, he'd turned in an exceptional 2021 minor league campaign (a .265/.385/.602 line with 36 home runs and 98 RBIs) and the club was still trying to adequately fill the first base gap left by Eric Hosmer when he headed for San Diego after the 2017 campaign.
But even his 10-game .333 average, .545 OBP and 1.212 Cactus League performance wasn't enough to supplant Carlos Santana at first base, a result due more to Santana's experience and the Royals' need to bolster his value for a trade deadline move. Pratto headed back to Triple-A Omaha.
That wasn't Pratto's last disappointment of the year. Because he wasn't hitting like he had in 2021, and fellow Storm Chaser Vinnie Pasquantino was having a banner season at the plate, Pasquantino was Kansas City's choice for first base when it traded Santana to Seattle late in June.
Pratto, though, got his big league chance later in the campaign. Sadly, he didn't make much of it: he struggled to hit .187, his OBP uncharacteristically plunged to .271, and his seven home runs in 49 games weren't enough to save him from the demotion to Triple-A the Royals handed him in mid-September. Then, he went 3-for-28 at Omaha.
So it is we must wonder about Pratto's future. He's been through this before: a year after clubbing 14 homers, driving in 62 runs, and hitting .280 in Low-A, Pratto moved up to High-A in 2019 and crashed to .191 with nine homers in only three fewer games. He spent 2020 at KC's Alternate Training Site, then returned to form in 2021.
Can he rebound again? Considering his talent, probably, but bouncing back will take the kind of intense work the Royals may prefer he put in at Omaha. High on Pratto's "fix list" is cutting down his strikeouts (he fanned 36.3% of the time with KC last season); he needs to play every day to cure that ill and, with Pasquantino now ahead of him in Kansas City, he probably won't get that opportunity if the club chooses to let him fight that excessive strikeout rate in the majors.
That the Royals won't do. Because he needs more seasoning at the plate, they won't give him an everyday job to start the season. Expect Kansas City to choose Omaha for his first, and maybe even only, destination this season.