Bobby the Witt leads a crew of young bangers simmering in Kansas City. Ace Lacey, Nicky Pratto, Vinnie P, Frank the Maserati and MJ Melendez give us a glimpse at the ghost of Christmas future in KC.
Full disclosure here. I slipped up and wrote Bibbt Wutt Jr. at one point. Bibbt–wutt? Then my phone wrote Bobby Whipit. Like when a problem comes along, Bobby Whip it! In this case, the problem is several losing seasons in a row. Typos, amiright? I’m getting light-headed over here, but that’s probably just the Royals’ sunflare future vibing in my blood. Let’s check the system.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA
1. SS Bobby Witt Jr. | 21 | AAA | 2022
If you’re reading prospect lists during a holiday-season lockout, you could probably write this blurb yourself. Bobby Witt Jr. has been a named guy since his high school days, and I think he’s already met or exceeded the hype he brought into his draft season. Historically speaking, few men have posted 33 HR 29 SB seasons across the top two MiLB levels during their age 20/21 campaigns. I don’t have a number on that. I’m not even sure how to begin such a search. Kyle Tucker went 24/20 during his age 21 season in AAA. The few players who could’ve matched this feat–Tatis and Acuna, specifically–were in the majors before they had a chance, and Witt belonged there last year, too. It’s fine to let him slash .285/.352/.581 with 17 HR and 15 SB across 62 AAA games, but it also feels unique to our current paradigm. Don’t pay a guy a dime if you’re not “contending” at the big league level. Nevermind this is a professional sport. Anywho, Dayton Moore has given the world hope that Witt will leave spring training with the big league club, and maybe he will, but it doesn’t really matter for our purposes, unless you’re jumping him up in the top 50 range on redraft leagues. Tough to pay that back for a rookie who loses about 15 games off the top.
2. C MJ Melendez | 23 | AAA | 2022
Nobody enhanced their prospect profile more than MJ Melendez, who cut his strikeout rate by an astounding 18 percentage points and led the minor leagues in home runs. His ability to let the ball travel deep into the zone and blast it to the opposite field is unique among hitters I’ve seen this year, or any year really, and I’m struggling to find a comp for that particular life-hack of his. His 17.4%/21.% BB/K rate in 44 AAA games is dreamy like a Jordan jumper. He hit 13 HR in those 44 games and slashed .293/.413/.620 after blasting 28 HR in 79 AA games. That’s 41 HR in 121 games if you’re counting at home.
Salvy are you okay? Salvy are you okay? Are you okay, Salvy?
Might have some plate appearance hit by, might get struck by, a smooth criminal.
Except not really. The playing time angle here doesn’t worry me at all. Melendez is a solid defensive catcher, so he can spell Perez here or there while playing DH, OF and maybe even some 3B and/or 1B. If you can hit like these catchers in KC, you’ll be in the lineup most days.
3. 1B Nick Pratto | 23 | AAA | 2022
Like a lot of Royals prospects, Pratto made excellent swing decisions in 2021. He didn’t halve his K-rate like Melendez, but he did blast 36 HR and swipe 12 bags in 124 games across the top two MiLB levels, slashing .265/.385/.602 with a 155 wRC+ in 61 games at AA and a 156 wRC+ in 63 games at AAA. He had some streaks here and there, but production doesn’t get much more consistent than that among players whose seasons span multiple levels. Like Witt and Melendez, Pratto had earned a shot at the majors by season’s end. Or perhaps by the midpoint, depending on your perspective. The top three here should share a lineup card in Kauffman by the end of April, and it will be nice to infuse this team with some optimism and offense, but Pratto’s plus glove at first base will make the whole infield look better, too.
4. 1B Vinnie Pasquatino | 24 | AA | 2022
You might still have time to buy Vinnie P, who’s probably been a tough out his whole life. He struck out just 28 times in 58 games (263 PA, 10.6 %) as a freshman everyday starter at Old Dominion, slashing .321/.397/.473 with 5 HR. I only go back that far as a sign that this was par for the course for Vinnie, dominating two professional levels in 2021, culminating in a 13.1%/11% BB/K rate, 11 HR and 2 SB with a .310/.405/.560 slash line across 55 games at AA. The strikeout rates are absurd for a power hitter his size: 6’4” 245 lbs. An 11th round pick (319 overall) in 2019, Pasquantino probably wasn’t part of the long term picture coming into the season, but I don’t know how you map the Royals future lineup without him at this point. He and Nick Pratto are both left handed, and I wouldn’t think Pasquantino can cover a corner in Kauffman Stadium, so that leaves just Designated Hitter on an everyday basis. He’ll have to rake and rake to make that happen, but I see no reason to bet against him at this point.
5. LHP Asa Lacy | 22 | A+ | 2023
Looked more like Mid-rotation Lacy in his first 52 innings as a professional, walking 7.1 batters per nine (17.3%) and earning a 1.58 WHIP across 14 starts in High-A. He did strike out 33.3 percent of the batters he faced (13.67 K/9), but he didn’t pitch after a July 21 outing in which he hit three batters, walked three, and allowed four runs in 2.2 innings. I couldn’t find specifics about the injury that sidelined him, but that was a wrap on his debut summer. He got better results in the Fall league but still walked seven per nine and said he was adjusting to the big-league ball, which makes sense, given how it keeps changing.
6. 2B Michael Massey | 24 | A+ | 2023
Massey was playing well enough to graduate this level at any time, really, but the Royals left him there for 99 games, slashing .289/.351/.531 with 21 HR and 12 SB, striking out just 68 times (15.5%). He’s behind the age-to-level curve, but I don’t care. He’s a 2019 draftee (109 overall), so he’s had two pro chances and hit well in both (105 and 135 wRC+ in 2019 and 2021). This is just who he’s always been. He hit at Illinois. He hit in the Cape Cod League. A back injury cost him some games and money in his draft season. A lefty bat at 6’0” 190 pounds, Massey is a natural-looking hitter, fouling off touch pitches and going the other way when the opportunity presents itself. I think he’s underrated in dynasty circles.
7. OF Kyle Isbel | 25 | MLB | 2021
A 5’11” 190 lb lefty, Isbel struggled early after winning a starting job in Spring Training, slashing .265/.306/.324 with a 41.7 percent strikeout rate in 12 games before being sent down to AAA, where he got the train back on track through the long season and returned to the majors in September. He hit .286/.362/.524 with a 10.6%/17.% BB/K rate, 1 HR and 1 SB in 16 games. Please allow me to be a stock talking head for a moment so I can confidently declare he’s probably somewhere in between those outcomes. So helpful, that statement always is. He’s closer to September Isbel than April Isbel. In 105 games at AAA, he hit 15 home runs, stole 22 bases and struck out 20.2 percent of the time. If he’s even a little like that as a big leaguer, he’ll be a bargain at redraft tables this winter and a must-start in just about any kind of league.
8. SS Nick Loftin | 23 | A+ | 2023
The 32nd overall pick of 2020’s shortened draft, Loftin was seen by some as a floor play because he’s a good contact hitter with the skills to remain up the middle on defense. His type often pops for deep leagues because he does the hardest part well: making consistent contact. The 6’1” 190 lb right handed hitter slashed .289/.373/.463 with 10 HR and 11 SB in 90 games at High-A, posting an impressive 10.2%/14.6% BB/K rate and setting himself up for a multi-level season in 2022. I won’t be surprised if he’s a big-league option by September.
9. LHP Frank Mozzicato | 18 | NA | 2025
I feel like RHP Jonathan Bowlan has earned this spot, or perhaps one quite a bit higher here, but he was shut down and needed Tommy John surgery, and we don’t have minor league IL spots in dynasty leagues (hey why the face not?), so I’ll save a spot for Frank Mozzicato, who fits perfectly with our gangster name theme from the intro and was the 7th overall pick in the 2021 draft. A 6’3” 175 lb lefty, Mozzicato built some buzz by throwing four straight no-hitters against high school hitters in Connecticut. Fame has been built on less, and this won’t be the last time Maserati cruises into the news. He’s a pitchability lefty with good stuff and plus command. Fastball, curveball, changeup lefties that can throw all three for strikes tend to carve up low-level hitters, so I’m not sure when we’ll have a good read here, but I do expect he’ll look like a pretty sharp 2021-22 FYPD pick by this time next year.
10. OF Darryl Collins | 20 | A | 2025
At 6’2” 185 lbs, Collins brings hope for power from the left side (he defends right-handed), but he didn’t find much in his first try at full-season ball. His slash line of .246/.367/.338 with 5 HR and 15 SB in 86 games would look okay for a lead-off type, and the Royals will likely be happy if that’s what Collins indeed becomes at the upper levels, but there’s also hints of more behind the curtain here. Collins grew up in the Netherlands, so we might want to allow him a little more development time than the typical prospect about whom we jump to conclusions, like they’re on a mat, and we can just jump to them. Collins does not belong on the jump-to-conclusions mat, is what I’m saying, no matter what you hear from Smykowski. A little extra patience might be in store here, is what I mean. Same goes for Erick Pena, who struggled enough to damage his dynasty value but has to be tracked closely.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.