While most Kansas City Royals fans view Bobby Witt Jr. as the new savior of the franchise, lurking behind him in a close second is Nick Pratto. Both players managed to place themselves into Futures Game over the All-Star break and are undoubtedly terrific talents.
Even more impressive are Pratto's strides at the plate, as he bolstered his average by 70 points and improved his OBP close to 100 points from a High-A campaign in 2019 to 61 games in Double-A earlier this season. This is the type of improvement the Royals organization has been waiting for from the former first-round selection out of Huntington Beach, and it has caused some to contemplate the idea of Pratto being a member of the Royals going into the next season.
Some Royals fans may not want to hear this, but now isn't the time to be hasty with Pratto. Patience is key, and he may still need some more time in Triple-A.
Because of Pratto’s defensive ability over at first base, it is no surprise that he has drawn comparisons to the former Royals and now San Diego Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer. The truth of the matter, though, is that Hosmer was better after four-ish years of minor league baseball than Pratto is right now.
In his last season in the minor leagues, Hosmer had a .439 batting average in the PCL with a .525 on-base percentage. The year before that, he hit .338 with a .406 OBP. Pratto, on the other hand, is a full season removed from hitting .191 against Single-A pitching and is hitting .236 in Omaha right now. Even if the argument is made for Pratto to be on the roster because he “could not be worse than Ryan O’Hearn," O’Hearn hit .375 this year and .295 last year against Triple-A pitching.
Simply put, Pratto needs more experience against minor league baseball before he's ready to play for the Royals, and that's okay. The Royals must refrain from rushing prospects to simply quench the demands of fans, only to have those players come up and struggle and have the fanbase immediately turn on them.
The fans turned their backs initially on Adalberto Mondesi because of underperformance and have now doubled down because of injuries. Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar were both called up before they were ready, and they received little to no sympathy or patience when they got roughed up in their debuts. What, exactly, is going to stop the fans from doing the same to Pratto when he is rushed up and possibly proceeds to get blown away by major league pitching?
The appeal of a defensive upgrade at first base should not blind the Royals to the fact the Pratto must be able to prove that he can be a consistent contributor in the minors for a while longer before getting thrust into the bigs. A high on-base percentage is great and could be indicative that he's close to being ready, but the overall body of work needs to be a bit more developed before firmly concluding that.
If you look at some of the best first basemen in baseball — players like Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt and Pete Alonso — they all proved themselves for multiple years in the minors before getting the famous call-up. That trend should not be broken for Pratto. A strong spring training should not be a factor either, because players like Mondesi and Jorge Soler have looked like franchise-altering players in Arizona before regressing to their standard form when the regular season begins.
Pratto is the future first baseman of the Kansas City Royals: make no mistake about that. But, with that said, his development should not be stunted to sell out a random Tuesday night game in the middle of April next season.