Around the horn: Pasquantino healthy again

January 12th, 2024

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Players are always excited to get to Spring Training and begin the season, but when the Royals arrive in Surprise, Ariz., next month, there might not be anyone more pumped than .

Pasquantino’s 2023 season ended prematurely because of right shoulder surgery in June, and sitting in the dugout watching his team did not sit right with him. A huge competitor, he wants to be on the field in good times and bad.

“I never want to do [last season] again,” he said last month at the MLB Winter Meetings.

Pasquantino will be back in 2024. He has been swinging in the cage and will be ready come spring. He leads the first-base edition of our around-the-horn series this week:

Projected starter: Pasquantino
Pasquantino is fully healthy after his season-ending shoulder surgery last year, and he’s more ready than anyone to get back on the field.

“I know the guys are fired up, ready to get out to Spring [Training],” Pasquantino said at the Winter Meetings. “I’m probably more fired up than most because it’s been so long.”

The Royals believe their lineup will look a lot different with Pasquantino back in the middle offering his unique power-patience combination. In 61 games last year, Pasquantino had a slash line of .247/.324/.437 with a 103 wRC+, an 11.9% strikeout rate and a 9.6% walk rate. He was hindered by the shoulder injury, but he is healthy now for the first time since his shoulder became an issue in 2022.

There are still plenty of things for Pasquantino to prove, given his lack of experience, but the future is bright for the 26-year-old. There were several teams that checked in with the Royals on Pasquantino’s trade availability this offseason, but Kansas City sees him as a major part of its core moving forward.

Backup options: Salvador Perez, Nick Loftin, Nick Pratto 
Manager Matt Quatraro will be mixing and matching the lineup based on workload and matchups, just like he did last year. If Perez isn’t catching, he’ll be the designated hitter or play first. If Perez is serving as the DH, Pasquantino will play first. But there will be opportunities to have Pasquantino at DH and let Pratto -- the better defensive option -- play some first base, as well as Loftin.

All that is to say, while Pasquantino will be considered the Royals’ starting first baseman, the position will see plenty of rotation. Garrett Hampson might even log some innings at first, if the Royals need it.

Question to answer: What is Pratto’s role? 
There will be somewhat of a roster crunch come Opening Day, and Pratto might be on the outside looking in due to both the club’s infield depth and the Hunter Renfroe signing likely pushing Pratto out of the outfield picture.

Pratto’s defense is outstanding at first base, and he did well in the outfield corners when given opportunities last year. Offensively, he hasn’t been able to take advantage of the opportunities he has gotten in the lineup. Pratto posted just a .660 OPS in 95 games last year, and he struck out at a whopping 40% clip. The 25-year-old was known for his plate discipline in the Minors, but he simply did not swing the bat enough last year.

Pasquantino has first base locked down, and as detailed above, the Royals have backup options. Pratto, a former first-round Draft pick, is going to have to really earn his way onto the roster in Spring Training.

Who else is in the Pipeline? 
Devin Mann, the Royals’ No. 28 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, plays all over the infield, but he logged 236 innings at first base between Triple-A Oklahoma City (Dodgers’ affiliate) and Omaha last season. He was traded from the Dodgers to the Royals in the Ryan Yarbrough deal at the Trade Deadline. Mann, 26, isn’t on the Royals’ 40-man roster, but he will be seen as depth this season.