It has been a long time since we’ve had real, actual MiLB to watch. When we released our top 50 Royals prospects list last week, I briefly recapped some of the players on our list, but I wanted to go a little further in-depth and remind everyone how our boys were doing on the farm last time there was MiLB: in the fall of 2019. For the next couple of weeks we’ll take a deeper look at the top prospects at each position for KC, including ETA’s, where we project them to start in 2021, where they are currently ranked on our top 50, where we project them to be ranked before the 2022 season, and their stats from the last season in which they played professional baseball.
We’ve already covered the SS, C, and 3B prospects in the Royals system. You can use the links below to go back and read about them in depth. Now let’s talk about the 1B prospects.
#1: Nick Pratto
- ETA: 2023
- Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
- Current ranking: #23
- Projected ranking in 2022: #25-30
- 2019 stats (A+): 472 PA, .191/.278/.310/.588, 9 HR, 31 XBH, .119 ISO, .3 BB/K, 73 wRC+, 17 SB
The one thing that’s keeping me from abandoning hope in Pratto as a prospect is his overall athletic ability. He’s excellent around the bag at 1B and he stole 17 bases in 2019, meaning he can at least move a little bit on the base paths. If he were any less of an athlete striking out in nearly 35% of his PA, I’m not certain there would be too much hope for him moving forward.
Another thing with Pratto is…I feel like he knows how to hit. I interviewed him a while back and I’ve watched hundreds of his at-bats since he got to Lexington in 2018. It’s hard to describe the issues that I think he has. It’s one thing to have no idea what you’re doing at the plate because you can’t identify pitches and just get fooled/beat. It’s another to have no approach and take pitches you shouldn’t be taking. Pratto doesn’t look like a guy that doesn’t have a plan. It looks more to me like he’s having trouble identifying the pitches he’s seeing and hitting them when he’s fooled. I don’t think it’s a horrible mechanical issue. I don’t think it’s a lack of knowledge. I just legitimately can’t tell how and if he’s identifying pitches.
Maybe I’m way off. I do know the Royals have made a couple of adjustments that should help Pratto offensively moving forward. I also heard Pratto’s name thrown around as potentially the most improved player at summer camp last year for KC. There’s still some hope to be had here. This is from Keith Law of The Athletic on having Pratto ranked as his 10th best Royals prospect heading into 2021:
“Restoring his swing to get him away from a dead-pull/launch angle approach and back to using the whole field was the Royals’ goal for him in 2020, and they feel like he’s again the hitter they drafted, just older and stronger now. We’ll have to see it against live pitching but there’s reason for optimism on Pratto for the first time in two years.”
#2: Vinnie Pasquantino
- ETA: 2023
- Begin 2021: High-A Quad Cities
- Current ranking: #29
- Projected ranking in 2022: #18-23
- 2019 stats (Rookie): 248 PA, .294/.371/.592/.963, 14 HR, 33 XBH, .299 ISO, .68 BB/K, 152 wRC+
If I was going to say that there was a 25% chance that Nick Pratto bounces back in a big way this year and redefines himself as a top 20 prospect in the system, I’d say there’s an equally good chance that Vinnie Pasquantino jumps Pratto in our rankings by this time next year. Pasquantino has a simple swing with great hands and legitimate 60-grade raw power. We haven’t seen much from Pasquantino at the professional level, but reports on him from instructs were good and I expect KC to give him a chance to jump straight to High-A to begin this summer. If we’re being totally transparent, I kind of wanted to have Pasquantino higher on this list. I’ve learned to be (more) patient (than I was) though, so I’m going to wait and see before I do anything rash. It’s hard to bank on 1B prospects too much because of the high standards that come with being a big league 1B, but I am optimistic about this kid’s future.
#3: Travis Jones
- ETA: 2022
- Begin 2021: AAA Omaha
- Current ranking: #UR
- Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
- 2019 stats (AA): 227 PA, .262/.354/.359/.713, 3 HR, 12 XBH, .097 ISO, .36 BB/K, 106 wRC+, 16 SB
I haven’t quite given up on Travis Jones just yet. It would’ve been a little irresponsible for us to include him on our top 50 just from an overall lack of production standpoint, but he’s a big kid, a great athlete, and still just 25 years old. Steamer projects him for an 81 wRC+ in the big leagues this year and that’s without Jones having taken a single AB in AAA and just 227 AA PA. Jones has never posted a wRC+ under 106 in his MiLB career. He consistently makes really good contact despite almost never accessing his raw power effectively in games. He’s constantly running up GB% over 50% making it very difficult for him to get the ball into the gaps consistently, much less over the fence. Like I said, I’m not entirely sure anything ever becomes of Travis Jones, but he’s got the athleticism necessary to carve out a bench role in the big leagues if he can stay healthy and get the ball in the air with any kind of consistency.
Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)