When the MLB Draft gets beyond day one (rounds one and two), I stop being able to identify players without doing research first. Unless the player selected is a local talent, a College World Series hero, or otherwise famous for something other than their play on the field, I probably don’t know who they are. I love college baseball but I don’t watch enough of it to be familiar with every 11th round pick, like Vinnie Pasquantino.
When the Royals drafted Pasquantino this June my initial reaction was, “Well that’s an 80-grade name,” and that’s all the more I knew about him. It didn’t take much digging to see why the Royals liked him. After a strong freshman campaign at Old Dominion in 2017 in which Pasquantino hit 5 HR and posted an OPS of .870 in 224 AB, Pasquantino slumped pretty hard as a sophomore in 2018. He hit just 3 HR in 107 AB, posted just a .764 OPS, and was much worse in the Cape Cod League that summer.
Fast forward to spring 2019 and good Vinnie Pasquantino was back in full force. In 218 AB as a senior at ODU, Pasquantino hit .298/.402/.560/.962 with 15 HR, 10 more than his previous career high. Pasquantino walked more than he struck out this spring at ODU and posted a career high ISO of .262.
Pasquantino has not slowed down one iota since switching to a wood bat upon entering professional baseball. After a 5-5 day yesterday in which he hit a pair of doubles and a pair of triples in an 8-1 victory for Burlington, Pasquantino is now slashing .285/.366/.582/.948 with 10 HR, 15 doubles, and a pair of triples in 43 games (191 PA). He’s struck out in just 18.3% of his PA and walked in 11%.
I can’t imagine that anyone saw this going much better for either Kansas City or Pasquantino. The Royals, when drafting Pasquantino, probably saw an emerging power lefty with well-above average plate discipline to fill a position of relative need on the farm. Pasquantino probably saw an opportunity to join the ranks of professional baseball with a team that needs a power bat at the position and an opportunity to prove himself after a rough 2018.
So we have an instance in which hard work meets opportunity. So far it’s worked out in a big way for both parties. Pasquantino’s 131 wRC+ BEFORE his 5-5 day on Sunday is an impressive feat for the 21-year old first baseman. Is this lightning in a bottle? A flash in a pan? Or is this power surge legit? How real of a prospect is Pasquantino?
I went back and looked at every hitter aged 21 or 22 to get at least 100 PA in the Appalachian League (R) since 2013. Before we talk at all about this exercise, please know that it is almost entirely meaningless. Historical research can tell us plenty, but it can not always tell us everything. It’s a place we should begin, but by no means end, ever.
With that, I tell you that there are 321 hitters aged 21-22 to record at least 100 PA in the Appalachian League since 2013. Of those 321 hitters, Pasquantino’s current wRC+ of 130.03 ranks 35th, just 0.76 points behind Nicky Lopez. Pasquantino figures to pass him after his 5-5 outing last night. Pasquantino is currently running up an ISO of .297 (that number includes last night’s 5-5 performance), which would rank 5th among those 321 hitters. Take into account his impressive BB/K ratio, SwStr% below 10%, and obvious power numbers, and Vinnie Pasquantino is currently enjoying one of the best seasons by someone his age in his league’s history.
Baseball, perhaps obviously, goes beyond numbers and statistics. Pasquantino is a 6′ 4″ 245′ man that deserves a long look beyond the box score. Let’s take a look at some swings.
I don’t know which scout is responsible for the drafting of Vinnie Pasquantino, but I see in him the same thing that the scout saw. Vinnie Pasquantino does not swing like a traditional power hitter. That is to say that he does not appear to be trying to hit for power. He swings very much like Hunter Dozier, in my opinion. He takes his hands to the ball and then allows his brute strength to hit for power for him. This allows Pasquantino to hit for an immense amount of power without the swings and misses of traditional power hitters (evidenced by a 9% SwStr%).
I think it’s very possible that the Royals found themselves a legitimate power hitting prospect this June out of Old Dominion. Vinnie Pasquantino has been absolutely mashing baseballs all year and he passes the eye test with flying colors. It may be too early to get too excited about a 21-year old that’s still in rookie ball, but much like we got excited about Kyle Isbel in his professional debut last summer, I’m getting pretty excited about what I’ve seen from Pasquantino in 2019.
Photo Credits: Bob Bradlee