Nick Pratto was once seen by some as the heir apparent to Eric Hosmer for the Kansas City Royals. He was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, forgoing a commitment to USC and signing for $3.45 million. It’s been a long road for Pratto since then. He (along with MJ Melendez) struggled immensely for the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks and, at the time, it looked like his prospect days were behind him.
Then, behind Alec Zumwalt and Drew Saylor’s guidance, Pratto turned things around in 2021. He had a .974 OPS in Double-A and a 1.001 OPS in Triple-A. It looked like Pratto had joined a core of the future for the Royals, alongside Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez. FanGraphs ranked Pratto as the team’s number one prospect in 2022 — and the 39th overall prospect in baseball.
To this point, however, inconsistency has plagued Pratto. He’s been unable to consistently contribute at the plate and hasn’t done enough to carve a role for himself in the major leagues. Witt and Melendez were promoted in 2022, leaving Pratto behind. Pratto would eventually debut last season but struggled. Those struggles led him to start this season again with the Omaha Storm Chasers.
Nick Pratto’s 2023 season was a tale of two halves
The first half of the season was much better than the second for Pratto. He spent the first month of the season with Omaha (aside from a short series in Toronto). His average was low and the stat sheet didn’t look exceptional, but other metrics such as hard-hit rate made it look as if Pratto had improved his process at the plate. He was striking out a little less as well.
The Royals promoted Pratto on April 28. From then until the end of May, he slashed .306/.414/.449, but again the strikeouts loomed heavy overhead at 31.6%. He cooled some in June — by the All-Star Break he had a .719 OPS — but the improvement seemed to be sticking at the plate. If the season had ended there, I think most folks would be pretty happy overall with Pratto’s 2023 campaign. He didn’t look like an All-Star by any means, but you could see a scenario where that version of Nick Pratto could impact the lineup in positive ways. Seasons don’t end in July, however.
The second half was a struggle for Pratto. Over the first 13 games after the All-Star Break, he slashed .189/.286/.297. It didn’t look pretty, and to make matters worse he ended up on the injured list with a groin injury in late July. Pratto was officially placed on the Injured List on July 28 and would remain out of game action until he was sent on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Omaha on August 17. A minor setback on August 25 delayed that rehab assignment, but he was back in action a few days later.
He did eventually make his way back to the major leagues in early September but the results again weren’t much to write home about. In all, he finished his season with a 79 wRC+, worth a miserable -0.6 fWAR, and struggling to find his place once again in a roster needy for talent. He ranked in the 6th percentile for whiff rate and 18th percentile for average exit velocity. It just wasn’t a great year for the now 25-year-old.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to see where Pratto fits in. Vinnie Pasquantino will be back by Spring Training, and even though the lineup could use help from its outfielders, Pratto’s bat doesn’t look like it will offer much solace. MJ Melendez and Nelson Velazquez did much more this season to claim a role next season, which means Pratto could be left out in the cold once again.
He has another option remaining, however, meaning that 2024 could see Pratto get a chance in Spring Training but end up in Omaha yet again if he cannot find improvements at the plate. If that comes to fruition, it would likely be a last-chance campaign for Pratto before he becomes a potential roster casualty post-2024. All Royals fans agree that seeing the former top prospect put it all together would be a most welcome development. It just doesn’t seem like something that you should bet on right now.
What grade would you give for Nick Pratto’s 2023 season?
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