Not since 2017, Eric Hosmer's last year with the club, have the KC Royals started a new season with no issues at first base. Carlos Santana provided some comfort as the 2021 campaign began, but speculation he'd be a trade deadline target even in his Kansas City first season surfaced early, and he eventually proved he wasn't the first base solution.
This season will be different. Barring injury or some unanticipated intervening circumstance, first base belongs to Vinnie Pasquantino. He earned the job by slashing .295/.383/.450 and clubbing 10 home runs in the half-season he played as a rookie after the Royals called him up in late June. And another disappointing effort from Hunter Dozier, and Nick Pratto's poor performance in his first shot at the majors, solidified Pasquantino's claim to first.
Pasquantino, then, should make the Royals comfortable with their first base situation when they open the season March 30 at Kauffman Stadium against Minnesota.
How long that comfort level lasts, though, remains to be seen. Pratto could complicate things.
There's a way Nick Pratto could take first base away from Vinnie Pasquantino.
After lighting up Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 with 36 homers, 98 RBIs, and a .385 OBP and .988 OPS, Pratto didn't hold a candle to Pasquantino at the plate last season. Pasquantino was hitting .277 with 18 homers and 70 RBIs when KC promoted him; at the same time, Pratto was batting .233 and had homered 11 times. And while Pasquantino's bat was excellent in the majors, Pratto's wasn't: his .184 average triggered his mid-September demotion to Triple-A Omaha.
If Pratto rediscovers how to hit, however, he'll likely dislodge Pasquantino from first base. Pasquantino's defense is certainly adequate, but Pratto's is superior and, assuming he sticks in the big leagues, he'll probably win a Gold Glove or two. Kansas City needs his better glove.
Therein lies the problem Pratto can create.
Nick Pratto taking over first base will mix up the KC Royals' lineup.
Pasquantino won't be out of a job if Pratto plays first. Instead, manager Matt Quatraro will keep his big bat in the lineup by moving him to DH. But it's a move not without complications.
Designated hitter is a shared position in Kansas City. Salvador Perez DH's when he doesn't catch or take a whole day off, MJ Melendez can (and does) fill in there when he isn't catching or playing left field, the Royals occasionally DH Hunter Dozier, and Adalberto Mondesi is certainly a DH candidate from time to time (if he stays healthy).
So, what to do if Pasquantino becomes the primary DH?
The choices are many. Pasquantino can play first and Pratto can take a day off, or vice versa, when Perez needs to DH. Whenever Melendez catches and Perez DH's, Pasquantino can move to first and Pratto to left field, where he's played from time to time in the minors and seven times for the Royals last season. If Melendez DH's, Pasquantino can play first and Pratto can move to left or take a day off.
Pratto playing first will jumble Quatraro's lineup, but jumbled lineups are nothing new to the Royals. Who the first sacker is will determine just how complicated things get.
Time will tell.
Things could get interesting at first base this season.