RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: #4

Welcome back. Another year is upon us which means it’s time to break out another edition of the Royals Farm Report preseason prospect rankings. As always, these rankings are a cumulation of what is now seven different lists compiled by the guys on staff here. Jared Perkins, a new member of our staff, was able to get involved this year adding a new angle to our list. A couple of things to remember about prospect lists:
– They DO NOT MATTER. This is a list from a group of bloggers that love the Royals. We watch as many games as possible, do as much digging as possible, and try like hell to get you the best list possible so you can have an idea of what the Royals have coming through the minor league system. We love what we do and we love sharing that love with you. There’s no reason to be upset about a list. I promise you JJ Piccolo and the Royals front office aren’t using this list in their evaluations. So, enjoy the list, but please don’t take it too seriously.
– This list is a combination of seven individual lists. There’s no one person responsible for the placement of the prospects on this list.
– This list won’t be perfect. There will certainly be someone we rank way too low that makes us look silly in a couple of years. We do what we can, but understand that this is more for record keeping than “player #14 is better than player #15.” Pay more attention to tiers, and groups of prospects, rather than each individual ranking.

Alright, that should cover most of our bases. Thank you all so much for getting this far. We appreciate all of you for your support over the years. This will be our fourth annual preseason prospect rankings here at Royals Farm Report. Just for funsies, here’s a quick look at the top 5 prospects on each of our previous preseason lists.

2018:
1) Nick Pratto
2) Khalil Lee
3) Seuly Matias
4) Hunter Dozier
5) MJ Melendez

2019:
1) MJ Melendez
2) Brady Singer
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Khalil Lee
5) Nicky Lopez

2020:
1) Bobby Witt Jr.
2) Jackson Kowar
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Brady Singer
5) Erick Pena

2021:
1) Bobby Witt Jr.
2) Daniel Lynch
3) Asa Lacy
4) Jackson Kowar
5) Erick Pena

A couple of those names from 2021 might look pretty similar this year, but there’s gonna be some new faces in there too. I’m excited to get this going. Thank you, again, very much for enjoying this with us. You can read about the 23 players we listed as “Honorable Mention” and players 5-50 below. Now it’s time to get into the top 5! Enjoy!

#4: Nick Pratto, 1B

  • Age: 23
  • B/T: L/L
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 1″ 215′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, Round 1
  • 2021 Stats (AA/AAA): .265/.385/.602/.988, 36 HR, 71 XBH, 12 SB, 15.2% BB%, 28.8% K%, 156 wRC+

What is even left to be said about this kid? In 2019 there were 260 hitters that received at least 250 PA at the High-A level. Only 20 of them had a worse wRC+ than Nick Pratto. Only 16 had a worse K%. Only 47 swung and missed more often than he did. In almost literally every sense of the word, Nick Pratto had a horrendous second full season in professional baseball. It was the kind of season that people do not come back from. FanGraphs MiLB data goes back to 2006, and from what I can tell, nobody that had been that bad at High-A has gone on to be a successful big league hitter. We’ll get to MJ Melendez on Thursday, because he was somehow even worse, but these two were almost completely falling off prospect radars into the 2020 season.

Here was my writeup on Pratto heading into that 2020 season that wasn’t, just for context:

“I really wish I could just forget all about Nick Pratto’s 2019 season, but unfortunately it was bad enough that we can’t. We’re not even three years removed from Pratto being the 14th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and I’m not exactly sure what to make of his prospect status. On one hand, the kid has handled his failures with a maturity you don’t always see in a 21-year old, and his work ethic suggests he’s capable of fighting through this. On the other hand, there’s not a single example of a player hitting as poorly as Pratto did in High-A and then going on to be a successful big leaguer. Obviously there are circumstances that add nuance to every individual, but it’s hard to overlook Pratto’s struggles from last season. I will say this, however. If there’s anyone that can get a high-caliber draft pick back on track and get him to the big leagues, it’s the Kansas City Royals.”

We ranked him 27th on our preseason list, with fellow first base prospect Vinnie Pasquantino ranked right behind him at #28. I mentioned at the time that it wouldn’t take much for Vinnie to pass Pratto in our rankings, but then we obviously didn’t have a 2020 season to evaluate. By preseason of 2021, there had been all kinds of rumors swirling about the progress that Pratto had made at the alt-site and during fall instructs, so we bumped him to #23 on our preseason rankings. The swing had apparently changed a bit, giving him access to more power, and the reports on him out of the front office were just too good to ignore.

I’d say they knew what they were talking about. Nick Pratto’s .375 ISO was the highest ISO posted of any hitter in any AAA league last summer. The only 22-year old to post a better ISO at the AAA level since 2006 is Yordan Alvarez in 2019 (.399). The only other one even close was Anthony Rizzo. The power that Nick Pratto brings to the plate is legit, and his ability to access that power in games is legit. The swing-and-miss concerns with Pratto are also legit, but we’ve quite literally only seen his power production replicated one other time at the AAA level, so that should balance out in some capacity in the big leagues. Pratto doesn’t quite have the raw power of MJ Melendez I don’t think, but he is so good at seeking out pitches that he can drive and his swing is so geared towards lifting the ball to his pull side that he should hit plenty of HR in the big leagues.

None of this is even to speak of Pratto’s defensive ability at first base and the leadership qualities he’s shown while in the minor leagues. Pratto took Bobby Witt Jr. under his wing in some capacity at AA last spring and the relationship that those two developed as roommates was obvious to anyone who watched that team with semi-regularity. Pratto also has a strong relationship with fellow 2017-draftee MJ Melendez, which has been made apparent over and over again as the two have abused runners with back picks to first base over a dozen times in their minor league careers. Pratto is a legitimate Gold Glove candidate at first base the day he arrives in the big leagues (he won the award at the minor league level last year). He’s got the ability to scoop the ball around the bag like Hosmer did, he’s got as good of an arm or better as Hosmer, but he’s got way more range than Hosmer ever thought of having. Not that defense at first base is the most important thing in the world, but it’s certainly an elite skill that Pratto possesses that should aid in his overall value a little bit.

Vinnie Pasquantino could give the Royals something of a GOOD problem moving forward, having two left-handed 1B/DH only types to try to fit into the same roster, but this is certainly something that Royals fans shouldn’t be worried about. The Royals made it work with Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler as well as Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales in the past, and they’ll make it work with Pasquantino and Pratto. Royals fans ought to be really, really excited about the future of this club, because the middle of the order is going to be stacked with left-handed hitting thumpers. Oh, and some guy named Salvador Perez.

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14 thoughts on “RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: #4

  1. Hi Alex, Pratto’s 2021 season was transformational. I don’t know if I have ever witnessed a player going for so bad to so good over two years. He is one of my players to see if 2021 was a flash in the pan “career year” and he’ll revert back or if he has really changed. KC needs Pratto to become a legit big leaguer. 1B has been a black hole since Hosmer left. Pratto is still so young.

    BTW – I taught and coached for 15 years before change in my life. I admire your dedication to the Royals farm report/webcasts, etc. and doing all of your work and keeping up with your family. It is appreciated by us and I respect you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Dave! It’s truly a hobby. It’s a productive outlet for me and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I really appreciate the kind words and support.

      Like

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