The Royals announced they have optioned catcher Freddy Fermín, first baseman Nick Pratto, and infielder Maikel Garcia to Triple-A Omaha.
Fermín was added to the 40-man roster last fall and had a sensational winter ball season, earning MVP honors in the Venezuelan Winter League. The 27-year-old catcher hit .270/.365/.480 with 15 home runs in 87 games for Omaha last year. Fermín had hit .273/.360/.545 with one home run in 22 at-bats this spring.
The Royals will carry Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez at the catcher position, but had discussed carrying a third catcher to allow Melendez to play the outfield and Perez to DH more often. Optioning Fermín would allow him to get more regular playing time. The move perhaps opens up a spot for a catcher like non-roster invitees like Jakson Reetz or Logan Porter, although both are considered offense-first catchers, while the Royals have said they prefer a veteran catcher who can handle the pitching staff. Veteran José Briceño is another option as a non-roster invitee, as the 30-year old has some MLB experience with the Angels. With other teams making cuts this week, the Royals could be on the lookout for a trade or waiver claim.
Pratto hit .313/.378/.438 in camp, but with a team-high 13 strikeouts in 32 at-bats. The former first-round pick hit .228/.369/.449 with 17 home runs in 82 games for Omaha last year, but hit just .184/.271/.386 with seven home runs in 49 games with the Royals. His demotion means Vinnie Pasquantino will start at first base. Pratto had seen some time in camp in right field, and he could get more reps at that position in the minors if the Royals want to keep both players on the field eventually.
Garcia has been a rising start in the system, showing newfound power after a promotion to Omaha last summer with seven home runs in 40 games. Overall he hit .285/.359/.427 in the minors, but is better known for his glove at shortstop. With Bobby Witt Jr. expected to start at shortstop for Kansas City, the Royals had tried Garcia at third base and centerfield this spring to improve his versatility. The 23-year-old hit .355/.375/.516 with one home run in 31 at-bats this spring.
The Royals play their last spring training game on March 28 and will finalize their 26-man roster before the season opener one week from Thursday at home against the Minnesota Twins.