The Royals announced Wednesday that they’ve optioned first baseman Nick Pratto, infielder Maikel Garcia and catcher Freddy Fermin to Triple-A Omaha.
Pratto, 24, will return for a third stint at a Triple-A level where he’s previously turned in a .241/.368/.528 batting line while hitting 38 home runs in 644 plate appearances. He had a strong showing this spring, batting .313/.378/.438 with a pair of doubles, a triple and a 13-to-4 K/BB ratio in 37 plate appearances. Pratto made his MLB debut in 2022, hitting .184/.271/.386 in 182 plate appearances. That said, he’s a former first-round pick (No. 14 in 2017) who entered the 2022 season as a consensus top-100 prospect. The Royals surely still view him as a potential long-term piece.
The presence of Vinnie Pasquantino at first base stands as a roadblock for Pratto, though heading into camp it was feasible that Pratto and Pasquantino would share the workloads at first base and designated hitter. At least in the early stages of the 2023 season, that won’t be the case, but Pratto’s demotion doesn’t necessarily indicate he’s in for a lengthy stay in Omaha. A strong early showing could put him right back in the big league plans. For the time being, it seems as though the Royals will use the DH spot to get at-bats for a number of players, including hot-hitting catcher/outfielder MJ Melendez.
The fact that Fermin was optioned out in spite of a .273/.360/.545 showing in 25 plate appearances seemingly indicates indication that Salvador Perez and Melendez will be the only catchers on the roster to begin the season. Fermin is the only other catcher on the Royals’ 40-man roster, although non-roster invitees Jakson Reetz and Jose Briceno are still in camp and could potentially be selected to the MLB roster.
Fermin, 27, made his big league debut in 2022 but appeared in just three games. He spent the bulk of the season in Omaha, where he batted .270/.365/.480 with 17 doubles and 15 homers in 348 plate appearances. At some point, it’s feasible to think the Royals could go with three catchers, allowing Melendez to log more time in the outfield and/or at designated hitter, but Fermin will head to Triple-A to begin the season.
Garcia, 23, is also being sent out despite a strong showing in Cactus League play. He’s posted a .355/.375/.516 showing with a homer, two doubles and two steals in 32 plate appearances. He split the bulk of the 2022 season between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .285/.359/.427 and logging regular work at shortstop. With Bobby Witt Jr., Nicky Lopez, Michael Massey, Hunter Dozier and Nate Eaton among the Royals’ infield options on the big league roster, the Royals have a crowded infield mix and seem to prefer Garcia getting regular at-bats in Omaha, which is sensible given that he’s one of the organization’s top-ranked prospects.
The Royals have more pitchers than position players on the 40-man roster, so optioning this trio out of big league camp seems to portend that as many as three non-roster invitees have a chance at claiming bench spots to open the year. Matt Duffy, Franmil Reyes, Johan Camargo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Matt Beaty are among the non-roster veterans still in camp.
I feel pretty certain Garcia is going to be the Opening Day shortstop for the Royals in 2024. The defense is elite and BWJ would need to have a pretty extreme turnaround in his glovework to justify him remaining at SS long term. My guess is BWJ gets almost the full season to try and show he can remain there though.
Dozier has a negative WAR in over 2000 ABs now. He shouldn’t be anything more than a placeholder for BWJ, Eaton, or even Garcia. I really like Massey to be a surprise contributor this year, so he should be the permanent 2B for a few years to come.
BWJ, Garcia, Massey, and Pasquantino/Pratto could be a really great young infield to work with for the years to come, with guys like Eaton and Loftin backing them up. Now if they could just get some of those arms to develop…
It seems like the Royals are hoping Dozier has a hot start so they can trade him. If not, I see the Royals releasing him.
Over Bobby Witt jr? I would think KC would rather have him at SS than 3B, but of course I am just guessing as Mr. Sherman refuses to include me in their discussions on the matter.
I think the most realistic scenario is Witt moves over to 3B at some point. His metrics at SS are genuinely terrible. He was last in DRS amongst ALL fielders/positions last year. That being said, he’s still young and I think KC will spend the year trying to see if he can at least get to a marginally passable level at SS first. Garcia’s defense is supposed to be amongst the best in the entire system, so I would expect he’s first up to take over at SS, with Witt going to 3B at some point.
Seems like every year there’s an under the radar team that surprises everyone. Could this year’s team be the Royals? Tigers? Cubs (although not that under the radar) Dbacks? Marlins?
I smell a MLBTR poll.
DBacks lineup is loaded with potential and underrated hitters. I’m not sure how the pitching is going to hold up, but they have the offense to surprise a lot of folks.
Italian, played for Italy in the wbc