As the Kansas City Royals struggle to find their footing this season, many fans are keeping an eye on a pair of minor-league batters.
First baseman Nick Pratto hit two home runs in a Triple-A Omaha game last Thursday, and he had 36 dingers at two minor-league stops a year ago.
With Ryan O’Hearn (.171 average) and Carlos Santana (.167) scuffling, fans want to know when one or both of those young sluggers might get the call to the majors.
General manager J.J. Picollo was asked that question during an interview Tuesday on the Royals’ flagship station, KCSP (610 AM).
“We’re gonna eye them this year at some point, but we do have to feel confident that they’re completely ready for it,” Picollo said on the “Cody and Gold” show. “Nick is on the (40-man) roster, so he’s less complicated than Vinnie Pasquantino. We certainly wouldn’t let the roster situation dictate whether Vinnie comes up or not, but with Nick being on the roster, it is a little bit easier transactionally.
“They’re both playing well. They are different types of hitters. Nick’s going to provide some slug and maybe a few more homers. There are some things we still feel like he needs to improve on. Vinnie is unbelievable with his strikeout-to-walk ratio, especially considering how big of a guy he is. He tends to use the whole field really, really well. So there’s a lot of good things that he’s doing. We have to remind ourselves that this is his first year in Triple-A, and he only had half a year at Double-A.”
Picollo noted the difficulty of determining how young hitters will respond to making the major leagues. He said there are fewer MLB veterans pitching at Triple-A, so the batters aren’t getting as big a taste of major-league pitching at that level as they once were.
That can make it challenging for the Royals to know the right time to bring up a batter from Triple-A for the first time.
“Trying to balance those evaluations is a little bit tricky, but they are two guys that we expect to help our club in the near future,” Picollo said. “We just don’t have a target date that we want them up this date or that date. We just let it play out.“