Royals promote Witt, Pratto to Triple-A

Talented prospects step away from Majors after dominating at Double-A

July 20th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Royals prospects Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto have been on a lot of road trips together this season, whether it’s around the country to play in Double-A stadiums or to the Futures Game in Denver last week. They took another one Monday, and it was the next step toward their future.

Kansas City announced Sunday that its Nos. 1 and 5 prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, were being promoted to Triple-A Omaha and will begin play there on Tuesday when the Storm Chasers host St. Paul (Twins) for a six-game set at Werner Park.

After learning about the promotion Sunday night from Double-A Northwest Arkansas manager Scott Thorman, the two drove from Springdale, Ark., to Omaha on Monday to get settled in.

“It was awesome,” Witt said on a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “It was one of those moments where you’ll always remember where you were, what happened that day, and it was an incredible moment. Getting to share it with Nick, it was awesome. And now we’re here.”

Both spent the first part of the season in Double-A, anchoring the infield and the middle of the lineup for the Naturals, and both started for the American League in the All-Star Futures Game on July 11 at Coors Field, with Witt leading off and playing shortstop and Pratto at first base. Experiencing this season together has made it even more special. The two have spent more time together than almost anybody else these past two years: Summer Camp and the alternate training site in 2020, and big league Spring Training and the regular season this year.

“Just the friendship we’ve built is something I’m really thankful for,” Pratto said. “To have that in a teammate and someone I get to come to work with is really special. We’re joining a bunch of guys that we’ve played with in the past, a bunch of really talented guys, so it’s exciting. 

“We’re here to have a really good time, and Bobby and I being able to do it together after the last couple months that we’ve had, especially after no season, it’s brought us together, and I think we feed off each other and learn a lot from each other. Bringing it to this group of guys is going to be exciting.”

They’re two core pieces to the Royals’ future, and they lean on each other as they experience their rise through the system.

“It’s been a blast to do it beside him,” Witt said. “He’s been there like an older brother I never had. It’s been really good, and I really look forward to the future and what we can bring.”

The time was right for the promotions; both had been dominating at Double-A.

Witt -- MLB’s No. 7 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- entered Sunday hitting .292/.367/.564 for a .931 OPS. The 21-year-old phenom and No. 2 overall Draft pick in 2019 led the Double-A Central Division with 50 RBIs and ranked second in hits (71) and homers (16). The majority of his playing time came at shortstop, but he also started eight games at third base and excelled defensively at both.

Pratto entered MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list earlier this season, ranking No. 99. The 22-year-old had been mashing as much as Witt did, often hitting right behind his teammate in the Double-A lineup. The duo hit back-to-back homers four times this season for the Naturals.

Pratto entered Sunday hitting .273 with 13 doubles, four triples, 15 homers and 43 RBIs. He tops the division in extra-base hits (32) and is tied for the lead in walks (46). An elite defender at first base, Pratto has committed just one error in 60 games this season.

Pratto’s story is especially special after the struggles he went through at the plate in 2019, when he hit just .191 in 124 games at Class A Advanced Wilmington. After over a year of working to get his swing back to what it looked like when the Royals selected him in the first round of the 2017 Draft, Pratto and his coaches were adamant those struggles were behind him. And from the start of Spring Training until now, he’s proven that.

“Just learning to be where my feet are,” Pratto said. “Really focusing on the moment and understanding that I need to take care of where I’m at. I did go through some stuff, and I learned a lot from it. I’m just grateful to be where I’m at and have the opportunity to succeed and bring what I can every day.”

The expectations surrounding Pratto and Witt specifically have been at an all-time high since they impressed everyone during Major League Spring Training this year. But the Royals wanted to see consistent production at the Double-A level before making any moves, especially after Pratto’s 2019 season and Witt having played just 37 professional games before the 2021 season.

That box is now checked, and the Royals will likely want to see both play consistently and succeed at the Triple-A level -- which brings a new atmosphere and new challenge -- before making the next move.

Now, though, they’re both just a call away from Kansas City.

“There are [the expectations], but I can’t look at it at all,” Witt said. “Try to focus on each and every day, try to focus on being the best Bobby Witt Jr. I can, where I’m at, and like Nick was saying, be where your feet are. You just focus on the future, try not to make it a roller coaster, just go up and up and up and continually have fun. 

“Hopefully one day soon, we’ll be up there. That’s the goal, and we’ll keep working.”