3 KC Royals playing their way out of core

The KC Royals evaluation continues. Right now, these three have ground to make up if they want to stick around
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Nick Pratto

Remember when Nick Pratto was the Royals' top option for leading off the lineup? The 2017 first-round pick started at a blistering pace, posting a 133 wRC+ across his first 123 plate appearances this season. But, there were underlying issues during that span.

First, the strikeout rate remained high at 32.5% from March through May. Strikeouts have always plagued Pratto in the majors, evident by a 36.3% strikeout rate in his debut season. Pratto usually walks at a pace that makes the strikeouts palatable, but the sheer amount is alarming.

Also, good luck was on Pratto's side to start the season. Through May, Pratto had a .460 batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. The MLB average BABIP now is .297, so Pratto was well above that mark. Skill does play into the mark, but luck's role is undeniable as well.

A lot has changed for Pratto in the season's second half. He still carries a respectable 11.9% walk rate, but the strikeouts rising to 35.7% in his last 42 plate appearances are concerning. Plus, a .297 slugging points to Pratto lacking extra-base hits when he does make contact. His .286 BABIP has regressed to near league average since the All-Star break. This all contributes to a poor 62 wRC+, certainly in the bottom half among Royals batters in the same span.

The athletic profile is still there for Pratto to succeed in the MLB. He has made a seamless transition to left field when the Royals need him there. But, with Pratto on the IL right now, Royals fans are seeing some more options in the outfield. Pratto is not a clear improvement from guys like Nelson Velazquez, who rocked a home run in his first Royals at bat.

Pratto has some work to do after he returns to action. If he returns to his early-season form, then he remains a piece in Kansas City moving forward. But, if he continues this downhill slide, then the Royals may look past Pratto in plans.