Let's take a look at three members of the Kansas City Royals organization this season:
- Player A: .105/.217/.105, 13.0 BB%, 21.7 K%, 4 wRC+
- Player B: .159/.312/.254, 18.2 BB%, 10.4 K%, 76 wRC+
- Player C: .260/.387/.531, 16.0 BB%, 10.9 K%, 144 wRC+
Player A is Ryan O'Hearn, Player B is Carlos Santana and Player C is Vinnie Pasquantino.
O'Hearn clearly isn't a core player, and it's worth arguing that he shouldn't be carried on a major-league roster. He's the same player he's been over the past several seasons since bursting onto the scene in 2018 for a home run-filled cup of coffee: a hit-first player who doesn't hit. 2022 hasn't changed that whatsoever. If anything, it's finalized that as fact.
Santana is worth keeping on a roster but due to his recent track record, his age and his injury history, the peripherals aren't strong enough to make him a worthy everyday first baseman on the Royals. Santana hit the wall of all walls last year due to aging and injuries and simply doesn't have the power in his game anymore to remain a legitimate threat at the plate unless he's looking to draw a walk. He's also on the 10-day Injured List as of the publishing of this article due to yet another ailment. There's a hint of sunk cost fallacy in regards to him and the Royals.
Pasquantino, on the other hand, is the opposite of a sunk cost and the opposite of a non-core player. The Royals' No. 5 prospect has done nothing but hit at an extremely high level ever since entering the farm system, and 2022 has been more of the same.
In 28 games at Triple-A Omaha — his first experience at the highest minor-league level — Pasquantino has posted a slash line of .260/.387/.531. His wRC+ is 144, which is just a small step down from the 153 it was in 2021 at Double-A and the 152 it was in 2020 (rookie ball). In those 28 contests (119 plate appearances), Pasquantino has six home runs and 20 RBIs with an outstanding .271 ISO. From a power standpoint, Pasquantino is about as good as ever and is crushing Triple-A pitching.
There's more to his game than raw pop, though. Pasquantino is a professional hitter in every sense of the word, and he has the numbers to back it up. Entering Tuesday's play, the 24-year-old has seen his walk rate increase and his strikeout rate decrease with every level promoted. The inverse oftentimes happens with prospects, as the improvement in opposing pitching proves to be too much to handle. Not Pasquantino, who boasts a very patient approach and has 19 walks to just 13 strikeouts thus far on the season.
Oh yeah, Pasquantino is doing all of this with a .241 BABIP in 2022. The next-lowest figure he's recorded in three minor-league seasons? A .293 clip back in 2019. Luck doesn't factor into the Pasquantino picture in a major way and when compared to others, that absence becomes even more drastic. There are no gimmicks to his success — it's all pure talent, maturity and production.
The Royals are off to a dreadful start to the 2022 campaign, and the need for a youth movement is ever-pressing. The M.O. of Dayton Moore, president of baseball operations and former general manager, is to give the season 40 games or so before unleashing a ton of drastic changes. The Royals aren't known for making those drastic changes, yet Moore has mentioned in the recent past that becoming "more transactional" would be an ideal point of emphasis moving forward. An internal transaction — the promotion of Pasquantino — could make just as big of a difference as an external one.
"Italian Breakfast" won't hit the cover off of the baseball at the big-league level. At least, not to start. His track record is proven, however, and he's enjoyed tremendous success at every level he's played at. Better competition doesn't faze him, and he doesn't have a contact problem or any red flags in regard to plate discipline. A hitter of his profile has better odds of handling the MLB jump well than most of his peers. There shouldn't be any worry about him not being well prepared, and there shouldn't be any worry about him taking the spot of someone far superior.
Where Pasquantino plays in the field once promoted is up to the Royals. He does lack in the athleticism department but projects as someone who can hold down first base long-term or possibly even be tried out in a big-league corner outfield role. Designated hitter is always an option as well, although Kansas City has plenty of cooks in the kitchen at this point.
Despite that, clearing the way for a chef who's capable of preparing a better meal makes the most sense. Pasquantino is ready for the Royals and regardless of whether or not the Royals are ready for him right now, they need to snap out of it and move him up the ranks.