KANSAS CITY -- When Vinnie Pasquantino received a cryptic text from Triple-A Omaha manager Scott Thorman on Monday morning, his heart started racing. Thorman doesn’t usually text Pasquantino, and definitely not on an off-day. What was up?
Instead of dwelling on it, Pasquantino got productive. He cleaned up around the apartment. He threw a load of laundry in the washing machine. He took the trash out.
“And if you ask my roommate Clay [Dungan], it was the first time I’d taken the trash out all year,” Pasquantino said.
As Pasquantino walked through the hallway with the trash bags, he saw Thorman, along with bench coach Tommy Shields and assistant hitting coach Ryan Powers walking toward him. Thorman asked Pasquantino what was going on.
“I’m taking out the trash,” Pasquantino replied.
“You’re going to need to drop those bags real quick,” Thorman told Pasquantino. “You’re going to the big leagues.”
That’s the story of how Pasquantino found out he was being called up by the Royals on Monday afternoon, in time to arrive for their series opener against the Rangers at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City lost 10-4 to Texas, with the Rangers scoring seven runs (five earned) off starter Kris Bubic and three more against reliever Matt Peacock.
Pasquantino didn’t play; on his hectic day, he didn’t arrive to the stadium until 4 p.m., and the Royals wanted to make sure he felt settled before plugging him into the lineup -- which will happen on almost an everyday basis from now on, against lefties and righties, at first base or designated hitter.
So for nine innings Monday, Pasquantino watched from the dugout, surrounded by his coaches and teammates. He considered his new reality, one that seemed inevitable for weeks now.
“Currently, right now,” Pasquantino said, laughing, not quite believing it, “I’m a Kansas City Royal.”
On his three-hour drive down Interstate 29 to Kansas City in his 2015 Ford Escape, he listened to one song -- and doesn’t even remember what it was. He had to keep pausing it to call another family member, friend or former coach.
“I was going down my contact list, thinking, ‘Yep, that person should be called,’” Pasquantino said. “Today is one of those days it’s really cool to have all the support from family and friends. They’re the reason I’m here. … It was just, ‘Oh, OK, there’s another 20 seconds.’ Phone call. ‘Here’s 10 seconds.’ Phone call. It was just really cool. I’m not complaining about it by any means because it made the drive go quicker, too.”
Pasquantino, who is known for his plate discipline as much as his power, has been mashing in Triple-A all season long. The Royals' No. 3 prospect's promotion was not a question of “if,” but rather, “when.”
The answer came Monday morning, when the Royals traded first baseman Carlos Santana and cash considerations to the Mariners for right-handers Wyatt Mills, who was added to the 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Omaha, and William Fleming, who was assigned to High-A Quad Cities. Clearing Santana’s roster spot and playing time opened a path for Pasquantino, and the Royals designated right-hander Ronald Bolaños for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster.
Kansas City has been talking with clubs for several weeks about trading Santana, who is on an expiring contract after signing with the team in 2021. Seattle, dealing with injuries during a playoff push, became aggressive this weekend in those talks and worked out a deal for the 36-year-old veteran, who has looked much more like himself at the plate lately with a 1.032 OPS in June.
The Royals will send a little over $4 million of Santana’s remaining salary to the Mariners, eating most of the contract. But they received two pitchers they think highly of, with Mills likely to help out the big league team this season and Fleming likely to help in the future. MLB Pipeline had him ranked No. 27 in Seattle’s system at the beginning of the season.
“You just look at when you get into the end of June and July, you know that trade discussions are going to pick up more because teams know where they stand at that point than they do in May,” Royals general manager J.J. Picollo said. “So we needed to be patient. Carlos performed very well over the last couple weeks, and we’re happy that he did because it helped his value. And then while all that was happening, Vinnie was accumulating at-bats and kept producing and kept doing things we wanted to see him do.
“His numbers are very solid all around, his splits are good, a big guy who walks as much as he strikes out, and he has as many extra-base hits as he does strikeouts. It’s a rare combination. You just get to that point where you feel it’s time. We’ve always said there needs to be opportunity. There wasn’t clear opportunity until we were able to make this trade.”
The Royals’ 11th-round Draft pick in 2019, Pasquantino has skyrocketed up prospect rankings internally and externally because of his plate discipline and power potential.
Dubbed the "Italian Nightmare" by George Brett in Spring Training this year, Pasquantino has a .948 OPS, 18 home runs and 16 doubles this season for Omaha. He has a higher walk rate (12.5%) than strikeout rate (12.2%). He leaves the International League after batting .280/.372/.576 in 69 games, ranking first in RBIs (67) and second in homers, extra-base hits (36), slugging percentage and OPS.
This is production not uncommon over his college career at Old Dominion or in the Minors; he’s just shown he can do it consistently and against better competition in these past two years at the upper levels. And the hype surrounding him got louder with each passing day.
“It’s cool to have the support of the city,” Pasquantino said. “I’m really excited to represent the KC logo, put it out there and give the fans what they want. Because what they want is what I want -- to play baseball hard and win ballgames.”
Pasquantino’s production is obvious, and his bat will make an impact. What stands out alongside that is his vibrant and infectious personality, one that scouts, coaches and teammates rave about frequently.
“I love having conversations with coaches and players: 'Tell me about your teammates. Who stands out? Why?'” manager Mike Matheny said. “When you hear a name that keeps coming up time after time after time, that this guy does things to help his team, whether it’s leadership characteristics, whether it’s how he competes, how he uses his voice, all of those things give you a better picture of the entire person and player.”
Adding Pasquantino's personality and talent to the team changes the look and feel of the Royals’ clubhouse. Pasquantino’s locker sits next to that of MJ Melendez, and just a few down from Bobby Witt Jr.'s.
The Royals’ future is now arriving piece by piece to Kauffman Stadium.
“I think we all know that we have some prospects in Triple-A that are good hitters,” Picollo said. “It’s just a matter of time before they get here. MJ has done a great job with the at-bats he’s been given over the last month and a half or so. Bobby’s really coming into his own.
“Now you have another young bat into the mix, I think it’s a sign of where we want to go and who’s going to be on the field for us for a long time.”