Grading the KC Royals: Nick Pratto still has things to prove

The Kansas City first baseman had another disappointing season.
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's offseason series analyzing the 2023 performances of various KC Royals players. Up today is Nick Pratto.

Kansas City first baseman-outfielder Nick Pratto has some raw power. The 36 home runs he hit in the minors two years ago prove that.

Pratto can also play excellent defense. The minor league Gold Glove he won in 2021 proves that.

As good as his bat and glove can be, though, and after spending parts of two seasons in the majors, Pratto still has to prove he belongs in the big leagues.

And after his 2023 performance with the Royals, he isn't close to convincingly making his case.

How did Nick Pratto fare with Kansas City this season?

After the sensational 2021 season he split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha — that's when he snared his Gold Glove and slashed .265/.385/.602 with those 36 homers (and 98 RBIs to boot) — the time seemed ripe for a 2022 promotion to Kansas City. But the Royals still had Carlos Santana at first base and weren't likely to move him until the trade deadline.

But a couple of things, one within and the other outside his control, got in Pratto's way.

What he could control — his bat — he didn't control well. Waiting in the wings at Omaha for the inevitable Santana deal to open up first base in KC, Pratto worked his way into a prolonged slump: he finished April batting .241, then hit .206 in May.

What he didn't control — others — further blocked his path to Kauffman Stadium. Electing not to wait until the trade deadline, the Royals traded Santana to Seattle in late June and, presumably because he was having such an excellent season at the plate, called Vinnie Pasquantino, Pratto's Omaha teammate, to Kansas City to play first base. Promoting Pasquantino, who was slashing .280/.372/.576 with 18 home runs, instead of Pratto, who was hitting .233 with 11 homers, made perfect sense.

Pratto still made it to the majors that season but performed badly. With his average well below .200 at .184 after 49 games, the Royals sent him back to Omaha in September.

He returned to the Storm Chasers to start the 2023 season; the Royals recalled him twice, and his second campaign with the big club was better, but not by much. Batting an encouraging and seemingly resurgent .279 as May ended, he hit .222 in June, .167 in July and, after missing all of August on the Injured List, .200 over the season's final month. He finished with a .232 average, 82 OPS+, and seven homers in 95 games. And not significantly closer to establishing himself as an everyday big league player, which means his future with the Royals should be in question.

What grade should Nick Pratto receive for his 2023 KC Royals season?

Tempted to give Pratto the same D+ we gave him last year, he gets a C- instead, but only because he improved his average by almost 50 points.

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