KC Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino draws All-Star comparison

As the Major League Baseball lockout continues through the 2021-22 offseason, the Minor League Baseball talk is in full swing. For the Kansas City Royals, a team with one of the best farming systems in all of baseball, there’s a lot to be said for it. Vinnie Pasquantino is a player who doesn’t always come first in conversations about the Royals’ top prospects in the organization, but he’s starting to get more credit.

Listed by MLB.com as the No. 17 prospect for the Royals, Pasquantino is lauded for his success and his power tools. He’s a 6-foot-4, 245-pound first baseman who thrives on quality contact, good plate discipline and the ability to drive the ball for power. There aren’t a ton of holes in Pasquantino’s game and although he only reached Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2021, he’s shown a lot of potential which suggests he could be ready for the jump to the big leagues in 2022.

In a recent article on MLB.com, Jim Callis held an MLB Pipeline inbox. To close the story, he answered a few questions about Pasquantino. The reader inquired about the 24-year-old’s true ceiling and whether the Royals would be able to find him a role with consistent batting and on-field opportunities. Here’s what Callis had to say in response:

With Pasquantino, it’s going to come down to his bat. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Old Dominion’s 2019 11th round until last season, but it caught my eye by hitting .300/.394/.563 with 24 homers with as many walks as strikeouts (64) in 116 games between High-A and Double-A.

Although Pasquantino has improved defensively, he’s not going to dislodge potential Gold Glover Nick Pratto as Kansas City’s first baseman of the future, leaving DH as a fallback as he’s a 6-foot-4, 245-pound ace without lots of speed. But he makes a lot of hard contacts and shows the potential to hit for medium and power, so he can provide enough offense to be successful at DH. His profile and makeup combination has led the Royals to compare him to Anthony Rizzo.

Everything Callis wrote is valid. Pasquantino was terrific in 2021, he’s a better defender than he was when he entered the Royals’ system, but he’s also likely a designated hitter as Pratto looks destined for a big role at first base at a given time. The Rizzo treat, however, is something even Pasquantino’s MLB.com prospect profile echoes. Rizzo is a multiple-time All-Star and one of the best first basemen of his generation, so if Pasquantion turns out to be even 85% of the player he is, it would be a huge boost for the Royals. .

There’s also another tall first baseman to consider here, and one the Royals circles should know about: Billy Butler. Butler wasn’t much of a defender and was one of the worst baserunners in the game, but he made his bacon a safe presence with a bit of pop in his bat. Comparing the trio of Pasquantino, Rizzo and Butler is far from perfect but for the sake of perspective, let’s do it. Below are the numbers for Pasquantino’s 55-game Double-A streak last season, followed by Rizzo and Butler’s performances over a longer period:

Pasquantino, Rizzo & Butler

All data extracted from FanGraphs database.

player name slash CMR+ BB/K% ISO

Vinnie Pasquantino

.310/.405/.560

153

13.1/11.0

.250

Anthony Rizo

.263/.334/.481

118

9.6/21.4

.217

Billy Butler

.331/.388/.499

132

7.7/12.5

.168

It’s reasonable to expect a natural regression to the mean, so that doesn’t mean Pasquantino would have maintained that level of success over a sample of over 100 games. Rizzo and Butler also handled the jump to Triple-A enough well and were obviously ready to play at the MLB level due to their dominance in their last minor league stops. That said, Pasquantino’s raw numbers are quite easily the best of the bunch out there. Until now, despite his lack of reputation compared to Rizzo or Butler when they were prospects, his Double-A production was superior.

2022 will be the revealing year for Pasquantino. Is he a long-term DH the Royals can count on to bring a professional approach, quality plate discipline and a good amount of power to their big league roster? On the other hand, has 2021 been a flash in the pan for him? Can he continue to strike at such a high level and make it a successful career against the toughest competition he will ever face?

The Royals should get at least part of their answer by the end of the year. Pasquantino may not have a crazy prospect history and he has gaps in his game, but at the end of the day he rightly finds himself in increasingly critical conversations. The Rizzo comparison is extremely loose and may raise high expectations, but the numbers are hard to argue with right now.

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