Dynasty BaseballTriple Play

TDG’S Triple Play: Kansas City Royals!

The Triple Play is back for a sixth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure! The Roto Red (@TheRotoRed) joins me (@barrington_phil) this week; follow us on Twitter and send us any questions, feedback, disagreements, what have yous, in the comments.

Nick Pratto, Age: 24, Position: 1B

Analysis by: Phil Barrington

What to do about Nick

Pratto is well known to seasoned Dynasty players, so we’ll make this recap short and sweet. The former 1st round pick from Surf City USA, Pratto shot up prospect lists in 2021 when he produced a line of 111/36/102/12 across Double-A and Triple-A. He was firmly among the top-50 prospects in the game, and the sky was the limit. A 2022 season saw him start at Triple-A and make his big-league debut on July 14, 2022.

Nick the Stick?

It wasn’t a productive big-league season, as the 6’1, 225lb Pratto played in 49 games and hit seven homers but with a batting average below the Mendoza line (.184), and the Royals sent him down in mid-September to finish the 2022 season in Omaha (and who doesn’t want to do that?).

This is his first “full season” in the bigs, and I put that in quotes as he began at Triple-A for 19 unproductive games in April. He has played 75 games for the big-league club in 2023 (as of this writing), accumulating 291 plate appearances, and being just a hair under league average (97 wRC+). His statcast yields a lot of light blue, with some light red 60th percentile, in walk rate, barrel %, and HardHit %.

Dr. Nick?

What scare me the most is his sky high babip of .380. If that is yielding a batting average of .241, what will a regular one yield? A near 37% K rate won’t play for long, either, especially hitting only seven homers thus far. Pratto usually hits righties better than lefties, so while there isn’t a platoon currently, one could also occur. Pratto has attained almost 2,000 minor league at-bats and had shown power (82 homers) but a poor slash .241/.339/.445 which we hoped would improve as he rose through the system, and it didn’t.

Will Nick Stick?

On the positive; Pratto knows how to take a walk, with a minor league BB rate over 12% and 10% thus far at the big-league level. He doesn’t turn 25 until October, he only had one minor league season (2019) with an wRC+ under 103, and the possibility of 25+ homers seems a reasonable peak. Though if he gets the opportunity to do so, is the question.

The Royals primary first baseman, now and for the near future (meaning 2024, probably), Pratto won’t have much longer to prove he’s a big league regular. I added him in a 16-teamer (where once a guy clears rookie limits, he isn’t eligible to be sent to the minors) where I’m rebuilding. When doing a rebuild, one has to take shots, and Pratto seems a good a bet as any. If you have him on a contender, and need the roster spot, I’d move on. When that happens, a rebuilding team should take the chance.

Carlos Hernández, Age: 26, Position: RP

Analysis by: The Roto Red

Up for Grabs

Hernández signed to little fanfare out of Guyana, Venezuela in 2016. He was 19-years-old and signed for $15,000. Hernandez spent his first few seasons in rookie ball and Single-A with performances ranging from pretty good (3.50 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 36 IP in Single A in 2019) to downright awful (9.28 ERA with 12 walks in 10.2 IP in rookie ball in 2019). For Hernández, it was important for his career arc that he finished the 2019 season strong.

The Rookie

2020 ended up being a strange year for many reasons. For Hernández, even though he had not appeared above A ball, he was added to the Royals alternate site on August 11, 2020. Then on September 1, Hernández made his major league debut pitching 3.2 scoreless innings. He would go on to pitch another 11 innings during that season, making six starts in total. The results were not great (only 7.98 strikeouts per nine innings, well below his minor league numbers), but for a 23-year-old rookie with no exposure to the upper minors, it was a commendable debut. Unfortunately, inconsistency plague Hernández in 2021 and 2022 and he bounced between the majors and Triple A.

Million Dollar Arm

Hernández has not had to worry about the minor leagues this season; he and his big arm have made a home in Kansas City. He has made 42 appearances, pitching a total of 49 innings. Averaging 99 MPH, Hernández has put together an impressive year. His surface statistics are good (3.86 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 57/13 KK/BB); his advanced metrics indicate that he has been better than the box scores would lead us to believe. Hernandez is in the 78th percentile for Whiff%, 78thpercentile for Chase Rate, and his expected statistics range between the 61st and 77th percentiles.

The real eye opener is his gains in strikeout percentage and walk percentage. In 2022, Hernández had a strikeout percentage in the 1st percentile and walk percentage in the 7th percentile. This year, the numbers have jumped, with the strikeout percentage skyrocketing to the 83rd percentile and walk percentage increasing to the 66th percentile. This is the difference between a reliever who is trending toward Quad-A status and one that is now being talked about as the replacement closer in the event the Royals trade Scott Barlow.

Trouble with the Curve

What has led to this improvement? First, Hernández has increased the velocity of all of his pitches. Notably, his fastball went from averaging 96.8 MPH in 2022 to averaging 99 MPH this season. His slider went from 85.9 MPH last season to 88.8 MPH. His split finger increased four ticks and even his curveball is up just over one mile-per-hour.

With his jacked-up arsenal, Hernández then made a change to his pitch usage.  In 2022, Hernández’s second most common pitch was his curveball, throwing it 22.8% of the time.  This season, he has lowered that usage to 7% while increasing the usage of his slider from 16.9% to 23%. The results have followed; all of his pitches are giving up a batting average against of less than .231, with his slider’s BAA of .143 really standing out.

Bottom of the 9th[?]

With respect to Hernández’s relevancy, all eyes should be on the upcoming trade deadline. The Royals have already traded away Aroldis Chapman. Will Barlow be next? If Barlow is traded, Hernández’s success should lead to him getting a shot to take over the Closer’s role in Kansas City. If that happens, Hernández becomes a must-roster player in all formats. After a tumultuous 2021 and 2022, Hernández could have been down on himself, but A Winner Never Quits.

Diego Hernandez, Age: 22, Position: OF, Level: Double-A

Analysis by: Phil Barrington

“200 pushups! How am I supposed to hit if I can’t lift my arms?”

From one Hernandez to another, Diego was signed for $200K back in summer 2017 from his native Dominican Republic. Hernandez started his professional career in the Dominican Summer League and didn’t debut stateside until mid-June 2019. Since then, Hernandez has not progressed through the system quickly; he’s spent parts of the last three seasons at the Complex League, though, to be fair, he’s at Double-A this season and last.

“The American Express card: Don’t steal home without it.”

The 6’0, 185lb Hernandez has a .278/.345/.374 slash over more than 1,000 minor league ABs with 95 steals and 14 homers (through this writing). The Royals added him to the 40-man after the end of last season so there’s something they like about Hernandez, and following the teams’ lead isn’t a bad play.

“I play like Mays, and I run like Hayes.”

In 2023, the lefty Hernandez has only garnered 84 ABs so far this season due to shoulder surgery (from a spring training injury when diving for a ball). Power, that wasn’t really on the table before (mlb.com gives him a 40 Power grade) may never come anyway. We just don’t want to sap any of that plus plus defense and plus plus speed.

Going super deep here, as Hernandez is only rostered in 1% of Fantrax leagues, but every time I write up a guy rostered in 5% of leagues, I find he is rostered in all my leagues already (props to my league-mates). At best, on a good team, one could see Hernandez with a 110/10/50/50 line at his peak. Or he never gets there; most likely he’s ticketed for a defensive replacement/pinch runner, but there’s possibility for more, and that’s why we play this game.

The Author

Phil Barrington

Phil Barrington

Fantasy player since 1999, specializing in OPS leagues. Accountant by day, fantasy writer by night. Spreadsheets are life.

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