It was a long time ago, but last off-season I tried to put together a roster for the 2022 Royals that I felt could compete without getting ridiculous on trades or free agents. You can’t see it now because of the new commenting system, but I took a lot of heat for suggesting that Vinnie Pasquantino was ready to hit big league pitching immediately and that Nick Pratto probably needed a bit more seasoning. Everyone was used to hearing about Pratto and felt I was being insane to suggest that he could somehow be leapfrogged by another prospect. I’ll actually argue that I think Nick showed more in his MLB debut than he could have and that I still think he has a bright future. But Pasquantino did more than enough to show that I actually got it very, very right when I said he was the guy to go to at the start of the season.
Sadly, the Royals didn’t buy in with me, and Pasquantino started the year in AAA Omaha. All he did from there was hit 18 home runs in 73 games for the Storm Chasers and walk more often than he struck out on his way to earning a 139 wRC+ and forcing the Royals to deal Carlos Santana to give The Italian Nightmare a roster spot.
Vinnie P. struggled a bit upon first being promoted but he ended his first major league action with a 137 wRC+ including 10 dingers in 72 games and - perhaps most impressively - he still walked more often than he struck out.
Unlike the last superstar first baseman employed by Kansas City, Vinnie doesn’t really struggle with ground balls or pulling. Almost all of his extra-base hits were pulled, but he wasn’t afraid to spray singles all over the park to keep his batting average at a more-than-respectable .295. He’s not going to flash leather very often at first base, but the eye test suggests the fact that he lacks the range of an Eric Hosmer or Nick Pratto might work in his favor. Both of those players have been seen diving for balls they should have let the second baseman field while they retreated to the bag. That won’t happen with Vinnie out there.
I was a staunch defender of Pasquantino’s before he got things heated up because the dude hits the ball hard and has shown an excellent eye at the plate. None of the red flags that should have warned us about Ryan O’Hearn are present. At age 24 there’s every reason to think Vinnie has a long, productive career ahead of him. I would not be opposed to seeing the Royals try to extend him ASAP at all. To my mind, it will be a distinct failure if Vinnie has even a single good year for another club when he could anchor the Royals lineup for the next decade or more.
This may be getting into hyperbole territory, but there is one player I can’t help but think about every time I see Vinnie swing. Especially when he gets a hold of one.
Now, the comparison doesn’t completely work. Vinnie made his debut at four years older than Thome and Thome’s career ISO was significantly higher than anything Vinnie is currently rocking. Thome also had power to all fields, while Vinnie still hasn’t slugged one out closer to left field than right-center. However, Thome struck out twice as often as he walked and didn’t really get things going until his age-24 season. Vinnie may not turn into Thome, but I’ll probably keep dreaming about it for at least a few years until someone can prove me wrong.
In addition to his on-the-field excellence, Vinnie showed natural leadership skills as the roster turned over more to the rookies. You could maybe ask him to be faster or to defend a little bit better but no one’s perfect and if the Royals have any hope of being competitive in the near future it’s going to take something like a duo of Bobby Witt Jr. and Vinnie Pasquantino continuing to improve at reasonable rates to get them there. Vinnie gets an A from me.
What grade would you give Vinnie Pasquantino’s season?
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