The Royals announced Thursday that they’ve recalled top first base prospect Nick Pratto from Triple-A Omaha as one of eight players joining the Major League roster. Also coming to the Majors are catcher Sebastian Rivero, infielder Maikel Garcia and lefty Angel Zerpa, who’ve been recalled from Double-A Arkansas. Additionally, the Royals selected the contracts of infielder/outfielder Nate Eaton, catcher Freddy Fermin, outfielder Brewer Hicklen and infielder Michael Massey from Omaha.
The deluge of additions comes in conjunction with the previously announced slate of ten current Royals heading to the restricted list in advance of the team’s road series against the Blue Jays, where travel restrictions prevent unvaccinated athletes from entering Canada. Andrew Benintendi, Dylan Coleman, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, Kyle Isbel, Brad Keller, MJ Melendez, Whit Merrifield, Brady Singer and Michael A. Taylor are all now formally on the restricted list.
As MLB.com’s Anne Rogers tweets, the roster spots of starting pitchers placed on the restricted list (i.e. Singer, Keller) cannot be filled until four days after they last pitched, per MLB rules, which explains the discrepancy between eight players being added versus the ten who went on the restricted list.
The Royals indicated in today’s announcement that they expect to add “up to two more players” to the big league roster over the course of the series. They’ll make another addition tomorrow and another on Sunday. Any players whose contracts were selected to the 40-man roster for this series can be returned to Triple-A without first needing to clear waivers, due to their status as Covid-19-related replacements.
Pratto’s promotion is the most notable of the bunch. The 14th overall pick in the 2017 draft, the California high school product slowly progressed up the minor league ladder. He had an awful 2019 showing in High-A, and the cancelation of the following minor league season dealt his prospect stock a hit heading into 2021. The lefty hitter rebounded in a huge way last year, blasting 36 home runs in a season split between the minors top two levels. That came with some alarming strikeout numbers, but Pratto’s combination of power and huge walk totals was enough to put him firmly in top prospect consideration. He entered the season as Baseball America’s #43 overall farmhand.
Assigned to Omaha to open this year, Pratto has essentially picked up where he left off. He’s hit 17 more longballs and drawn walks at a massive 15.1% clip, but he’s fanned in over 30% of his trips to the plate. The end result — a .240/.374/.484 line through 337 plate appearances — is still excellent. The Royals nevertheless brought up fellow top prospect Vinnie Pasquantino ahead of Pratto, seemingly preferring he get a long leash to iron out the strikeout concerns in the upper minors. It’s very possible he’ll head back to Omaha after the Jays’ series, but Kansas City fans will at least get their first glimpse at a player they hope eventually develops into a middle-of-the-order bat.
It’ll almost certainly be a brief stint for the group of players temporarily added to the 40-man roster. Hicklen was called up briefly as a COVID replacement earlier in the season. Fermin, Massey and Eaton all have opportunities to make their big league debuts in the coming days. Fermin, a former international signee out of Venezuela, is hitting .242/.357/.422 with Omaha this season.
Massey, a fourth-round pick out of Illinois in 2019, was recently named the #8 prospect in the Kansas City system by Baseball America. He owns a .348/.408/.630 line with six homers in 24 games since being bumped up to Omaha last month, and he’ll almost certainly land a permanent 40-man roster spot by next offseason (when Kansas City would need to add him to keep him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft). Eaton is a former 21st-round pick out of VMI. BA recently slotted him 29th in the farm system in recognition of his .329/.388/.591 showing with the Storm Chasers.