Nick Pratto has transformed from a potential AAAA player to a solid bat in the span of a year for the KC Royals. The former first-round pick back in 2017 has had a lot of ups and downs over his career, but with something to prove coming into the 2023 season, he has blown away expectations.
Subtle changes have been the catalyst for Pratto's rebound this season.
So far Pratto has accumulated 123 plate appearances through June 1, producing a slash line of .295/.398/.429 with an OPS of .827. That is a lot better than his cup of coffee last season as his OPS was in the .600s. There are a lot of other things Pratto has done better this year compared to last, so let's get into one of the major changes.
The biggest and least subtle change comes from his batted ball profile. His relationship with the flyball has pretty much ended this season as his flyball rate has dropped a whopping 23.7%, from 40.6% to 16.9%. This changed a ton due to his Under% (percentage of balls hit he is under) being at 15. 4%. Another thing that has changed in his batted ball profile is the fact that he isn't pulling the ball as much as he did last year at 30.8%. Then the subtle changes kick in for Pratto.
A lot of the subtlety comes from the more advanced analytics in Pratto's game, specifically in his plate discipline. While he is whiffing a lot still (38.5 O-contact%) he is making a lot more contact overall compared to last season. His 72.1 Contact% is solid but mixed in with his 39 Swing%. So when he swings it is pretty much a whiff or he is hitting it, depending on where the pitch is located.
The main issue with Pratto at the moment and probably for his career is his strikeout rate. This year it is at 32.5%, which is lower than last season but still not great. Another thing that will probably be high for him in his career is his CSW, which is at 21.5% currently. It is kind of the trade-off for his approach at the plate, where he hunts for what he wants albeit he is a little more extreme about it. He will walk and strike out a ton, but if he makes contact he tends to hit the ball hard.
Speaking of hitting the ball hard Pratto has a 44.6 hard hit%, which is good. He is also finding the sweet spot more often at a 44.6% rate compared to 34.4% last year, which means he is making more solid contact than not. The only thing that hasn't gone up for Pratto is his barrel percentage, which is at 10.8% compared to 12.5% last year. This isn't bad given everything else and he is making better contact more often overall.
This year it seems Pratto is putting it all together and becoming more of a staple within the KC Royals lineup than a trade chip. Does that cause some issues given that Vinnie Pasquantino plays first base as well? It can, but it seems the Royals are fine with Pratto being in one of the corner outfield spots if Vinnie is at first. Either way it seems the Pratto has played into the Royals future for the time being.