Prospect Spotlight – Vinnie Pasquantino
The Kansas City Royals do not have the best track record with first base only prospects. They have had players that showed the ability to hit for power and average in the minors but never had MLB success. Kila Ka’aihue, Clint Robinson and Frank Schwindel are a few examples. Robinson and Ka’aihue have less than one career bWAR between them. Schwindel has just recently found some success in the Cubs’ organization at the age of 29, but it remains to see if he can repeat this.
Vinnie Pasquantino wants to change this. He has hit throughout his entire career. At Old Dominion, he slashed .309/.388/.507 with 24 home runs and a .895 OPS. He also shows elite plate skills with a 10% BB%, 12% K% and an 85% contact percentage. The Royals drafted Vinnie in the 11th round of the 2019 draft.
After being drafted, Vinnie was assigned to the Rookie-level and continued to rake to the tune of .294/.371/.592. He hit a league-leading 14 home runs with excellent plate skills and contact rates (16% K%, 11% BB%, 81% contact %). There will be knocks against this performance because he was old for the level. However, to put up numbers similar to what he did in college during his first taste of pro ball is very impressive.
In 2021 Pasquantino started the year in High-A and was even better than his first year. His K% dropped to 14%, his BB% increased to 12%, and he kept his power while hitting for a high average, .291. After 61 games, he was promoted to Double-A and got even better against the more advanced competition. The strikeout rate dropped to a minuscule 11%, and the walks rose to 13%. He made more contact and continued to hit for power, 11 home runs in 55 games. It’s clear that Pasquantino has the skills to be a major league hitter and a very good one.
When analyzing prospects I look at skills and do not worry too much about pedigree or position. Where someone plays on the diamond or what round they were drafted does matter, but I always heavily weigh what the player is doing. Skills show a player’s true talent regardless of where publications have them ranked.
I first learned about Pasquantino during the 2020 COVID season while looking at 2019 stats. One of the ways I try to find underrated prospects is to filter batting stats for the following criteria.
- Swinging Strike percentage below 10%
- Ground ball percentage below 45%
- Line drive percentage above 20%
- ISO above .150
- Contact percentage above 80%
The players that meet these criteria are capable of a few important skills – they have good bat-to-ball skills, do not swing and miss much, can hit for power, and can lift the ball. Some players who have demonstrated similar skills in the minors are J.T. Realmuto, Manny Machado, Marcus Semien, and Max Kepler. Players who did this in the MLB in 2021; Kyle Tucker, Marcus Semien, Will Smith, Justin Turner, Jorge Polanco and Robbie Grossman. Is Vinnie Pasquantino the next Kyle Tucker? No, but my point is Vinnie looks like a big leaguer.
The upside is considerable. A 30 home run bat with elite plate skills who can hit for a near .300 average is valuable. That is a type of player who can be a steady force on your fantasy team week in and week out. Pasquantino has the ceiling of players like Edwin Encarnación, Paul Konerko, Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Teixeira. These are bold claims, but the numbers are there to back it up.
I also want to touch on Vinnie’s makeup. He has gotten rave reviews from everyone he has played with. He’s upbeat, full of energy, and plays every game hard. Some scouts have said if baseball doesn’t work out for him, he can run for mayor. When listening to Vinnie talk about the game or anything really, it’s impossible not to root for him.
The only real obstacle Pasquantino faces is his position. The Royals already have a top first base prospect in their system in Nick Pratto. MJ Melendez and Sal Perez are likely to split time at catcher and DH. There’s a chance Melendez spends some time at third base; he played nine games there at Tripe A, so maybe DH opens up. Pasquantino is a big boy, listed at 6’4 and 245 pounds, so it would be difficult to move to the outfield.
However, as Vinnie himself has said, he cannot control that. All he can control is what he does on the field, and that’s where he has been elite. He will likely start the year in Triple-A, and with the amount of talent the Royals have amassed in the minors, there will be a battle for playing time. In situations like this, I bet on the skills where Vinnie has the upper hand. Teams find room for prospects who hit like this. We will see Vinnie Pasquantino called up at some point in 2022.