Bobby Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino have gotten their chances ahead of him. Now, another Top 100 prospect has been given an opportunity to prove himself at the top level with Kansas City.
The Royals are calling up No. 69 overall prospect Nick Pratto for his Major League debut in a road series in Toronto, starting Thursday.
The move comes after 10 Royals players were placed on the restricted list due to their vaccination status before Kansas City’s trip to Canada. Pratto was initially scheduled to participate in Saturday’s All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles, but this Major League promotion takes precedent.
Regardless of the circumstances of the callup, Pratto has the skills and recent performance to make a quick impact on the big club and lay the groundwork for a stint that lasts longer than just this trip north.
Since June 16, the 23-year-old first baseman/outfielder owns a .301/.448/.590 line with six homers, 11 total extra-base hits and 20 walks over his last 22 games with Triple-A Omaha. That .448 on-base percentage is fourth-best in Triple-A over that span, and his season line has jumped from a modest .214/.341/.438 to a much more robust .240/.374/.484 in these last four weeks.
The recent upturn speaks to the left-handed slugger’s career-long improvements when it comes to patience and power production since he was taken 14th overall in 2017.
The California native famously saw his stock drop precipitously in 2019, when he hit just .191 with a career-high 34.7 percent strikeout rate in 124 games at High-A Wilmington. He worked the following year at Kansas City’s alternate training site on improving his intent to impact the ball, primarily by avoiding low pitches he would drive into the ground and mashing balls up that he could hammer over the fence. That work with Royals coaches and officials also led to Pratto seeing more pitches in general in a similar improvement that helped Melendez before his MLB ascent.
The result in 2021: 36 homers and a career-best .987 OPS.
Pratto’s numbers have crept back a bit this season in the International League -- namely a strikeout rate that is back over 30 percent -- but the easy plus power remains in place. His 17 homers on the season rank sixth in the IL, entering Thursday.
What always kept Pratto as a prospect -- and helped seal his place as a Top 100 prospect in the last two years -- was his defense. His athleticism and agile movements at the cold corner allowed some evaluators to give him 70 grades for his glovework on the 20-80 scouting scale. That would make him a potential Gold Glove first baseman, and his fielding ability might be what plays best immediately for Kansas City. With Hunter Dozier out at first base, Pratto’s presence could lead Pasquantino, who is available in Toronto, to fill the DH role.
The Royals have also put Pratto’s athleticism and plus arm to use in both corner outfield spots this season, and that versatility could come in handy with Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Isbel all out against the Blue Jays. He hasn’t played the grass since June 22, however, coinciding partly with Pasquantino’s jump to the big leagues.
This initial foray into the Majors may seem like a short-term one brought on by unique circumstances, but it is an opportunity for Pratto all the same. Melendez, who opened the season right around the same place in the Pipeline Top 100, got his first look at the Majors when Cam Gallagher was first injured in early May and has stuck around ever since, in part due to Salvador Perez’s thumb injury.
With his once-again improving bat and always stellar defense, all Pratto needs is a chance at the bigs, and that comes now.