Edit: The Royals placed Nick Pratto on the minor-league IL after he was hit by a pitch in the head Monday (referenced below), which will surely delay his arrival further.
We know the immediate answer is no. The Royals instead called up Emmanuel Rivera, a non-prospect by most evaluations, but there's an indefinite timetable for this injury. It may ultimately still open the door for Pratto.
Maybe they're just waiting for him to heat up at Triple-A. Granted, he sort of already has, batting .309 (17 for 55) with two homers over his past 15 games to raise his season batting average to .250. In comparison. Melendez was batting only .167 at the time of his call-up, but of course, you can't just plug in anyone at catcher the way you can first base.
So yeah, maybe the Royals want Pratto to get hot. Or maybe they're genuinely torn over which first base prospect to promote first.
The other one in the discussion is Vinnie Pasquantino, who's been playing alongside Pratto at Triple-A Omaha, splitting his time between first base and DH. Pasquantino is a year older. He has better numbers (slashing .284/.406/.556 with more walks than strikeouts). He has a safer profile, striking out at only one-third of the rate Pratto has so far. But he's not as highly regarded as a prospect. He doesn't have the same upside. He's also not on the 40-man roster yet.
If the Royals commit to breaking in Pratto, it makes for a much more difficult path for Pasquantino, and vice versa. That's doubly true if they intend to stick with Melendez, having him split catcher and DH duties with Salvador Perez. Pratto has spent some time in the outfield at Triple-A and is athletic enough to play there, which presents one possible path for all three prospects, but even so, it's understandable that a non-contender would want to take its time developing the cleanest solution to a messy situation. The urgency at catcher forced their hand with Melendez, but it's not the same at first base.
My hunch is that Pratto gets the call first, particularly if his numbers continue to trend the right direction, but the Rivera call-up would suggest his promotion isn't imminent. (It also doesn't help that he left Wednesday's game after taking a pitch off the head.) Either Pratto or Pasquanitino would be a reasonable choice for my Five on the Verge, but out of fear of backing the wrong one, I'm leaving them both out for now.
Instead, you can enjoy this video of them hitting back-to-back homers a few days ago:
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
2021 minors: .285 BA (452 AB), 23 HR, 25 2B, .899 OPS, 79 BB, 90 K
2022 minors: .429 BA (21 AB), 5 2B, 3 BB, 1 K
Rutschman's rehabilitation from a preseason triceps injury has gone without a hitch so far, and he recently progressed from high Class A to Double-A. It still seems like this ramp-up ultimately ends with him in the majors, particularly if Orioles GM Mike Elias is to be believed (and why wouldn't he be?). As a reminder, here's what he had to say on the matter at the start of Rutschman's rehab assignment:
"If he puts himself back to [where he was before the injury], I can't see a whole lot more that he probably needs to prove in the minor leagues other than he is himself."
So far, so good on that front. And because Rutschman is as perfect a catcher prospect as any of us have ever come across -- perhaps the most perfect ever, earning 60 and 70 grades for all the attributes that matter -- it makes him well worth stashing.
Nolan Gorman, 2B, Cardinals
2021 minors: .279 BA (480 AB), 25 HR, .814 OPS, 38 BB, 115 K
2022 minors: .302 BA (86 AB), 11 HR, 1.067 OPS, 7 BB, 34 K
For a stretch there when he was hitting safely in 15 straight (and homering about as regularly), Gorman appeared to nip his early-season strikeout issues in the bud. But they're back now and as bad as ever. In his past five games, a total of 22 plate appearances, he has struck out 12 times. It's going to make the Cardinals think twice about calling him up, especially since president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has already suggested that doing so would mean moving on from Paul DeJong.
"We're still trying to figure out what we have here with [DeJong], so we're trying to give him every opportunity possible," Mozeliak said Monday. "If things don't change trajectory or direction, then ultimately we're probably going to have to do something different. Nolan would get more of a major-league opportunity at that point."
Some more insight into Mozeliak's thinking:
"If it was as simple as whatever you did at Triple A, you could do here, there would be no reason to have Triple A," he said. "There's a difference in leagues, there's no doubt about it."
Max Meyer, SP, Marlins
2021 minors: 6-4, 2.27 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 111 IP, 42 BB, 130 K
2022 minors: 2-0, 1.71 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 26 1/3 IP, 6 BB, 33 K
Meyer continued to roll in his latest start Saturday, allowing one run on six hits with one walk and six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. It wasn't his most dominant start, but it was his longest, showing that he's stretched out and primed for whatever challenge comes next. And the Miami Herald reports that the Marlins are likely to promote him at the next opening. It may not even take an injury. Sounds like the leash is running short for Elieser Hernandez, whose ERA is up to 6.66 after another poor showing Wednesday. Meyer's fastball and slider have both rated near the top of the scale since the Marlins picked him third overall in the 2020 draft, but his development of a changeup this year has him profiling like an ace.
Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates
2021 minors: .310 BA (271 AB), 17 HR, 19 SB, .969 OPS, 28 BB, 69 K
2022 minors: .159 BA (82 AB), 1 HR, 7 SB, .522 OPS, 11 BB, 29 K
The 23-year-old still has a bright future and will eventually get his shot this year, but when it comes to dedicating a roster spot to him in redraft leagues, I'm running out of patience. Things have gone from bad to worse in the past week. A 1-for-23 stretch has dropped his batting average to .159. As we get deeper into the season and other high-end prospects begin pushing for big-league promotions, it'll become all the more difficult to keep Cruz in my Five on the Verge, regardless of the upside. The opportunity cost may be too high. I'll give it another week or two to see if he can turn things around, but right now, he's most assuredly not on the verge of anything.
Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
2019 minors: .236 BA (517 AB), 12 HR, 22 SB, .661 OPS, 38 BB, 123 K
2022 minors: .310 BA (84 AB), 3 HR, 8 SB, .987 OPS, 16 BB, 19 K
Lewis is a newcomer to this space, taking the place of Grayson Rodriguez, who has struggled in his past two starts. Lewis has missed the past two years because of a torn ACL, but what a return to form this year. In fact, now may be when he's looked the most deserving of the No. 1 overall pick the Twins used on him in 2017. The mechanical issues that sapped his production in 2019 are gone. His swing is quieter, his leg kick shorter, his approach more disciplined. He's been running with reckless abandon and driving the ball with aplomb. And because he's only 22, he could still live up to everything the Twins hoped he would be.
The Twins' hitter ranks have already thinned out quite a bit, forcing them to call up Jose Miranda earlier than they may have liked. The next blow could be Lewis' ticket to the majors. He's blocked by Carlos Correa at shortstop, of course, but he's versatile enough to play anywhere but catcher.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
2021 minors: .256 BA (340 AB), 22 HR, .833 OPS, 39 BB, 103 K
2022 minors: .329 BA (85 AB), 10 HR, 1.159 OPS, 14 BB, 18 K
A former first-round pick and the prize of the Matt Olson deal, Langeliers earns his highest marks for his defense. But he broke through as a power hitter last year and appears to have upped his offensive game again, most notably in terms of plate discipline. The numbers are bloated by his favorable home park, where he has hit nine of his 10 home runs so far, but if he can continue walking more and striking out less, there isn't much left for him to improve. At 24, he's likely up at some point this year, though Sean Murphy has been one of the more productive catchers at the big-league level so far.
Michael Harris, OF, Braves
2021 minors: .294 BA (374 AB), 7 HR, 27 SB, .798 OPS, 35 BB, 76 K
2022 minors: .326 BA (95 AB), 4 HR, 10 SB, .943 OPS, 8 BB, 19 K
If Harris' high prospect standing had you scratching your head coming into the year, maybe you get it now. The 21-year-old has been a bundle of energy so far, with his power playing up as hoped now that he's in a more neutral environment (all seven of his home runs last year came on the road). The move to Double-A is considered the most significant apart from the majors, but Harris has handled it with ease, delivering exit velocities in excess of 110 mph with a near even distribution between right and left field. He's a hitter first who also happens to have power and speed, and it's possible he'll be contributing to the big club before season's end.
2021 minors: .277 BA (412 AB), 25 HR, 17 SB, .825 OPS, 21 BB, 119 K
2022 minors: .361 BA (83 AB), 7 HR, 4 SB, 1.159 OPS, 8 BB, 24 K
At 26, Garrett doesn't fit the conventional prospect mold, but his age also makes for some urgency to promote him, as does the current state of the Diamondbacks offense. The former Marlins draft pick was actually out of baseball and working as a realtor in 2020, but he came back with improved power in 2021 and seems to have found another gear this year. He credits the breakthrough to hitting coach Nick Evans, who helped him recognize what pitchers are trying to do against him, and also to the minor mechanical change of finishing his swing with two hands. He's a physical presence at the plate and also a threat on the base paths, making him a sneaky pickup in Dynasty leagues where the talent pool is mostly tapped out.
Andrew Abbott, SP, Reds
2021 minors: 13 IP, 12 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 22 K
2022 minors: 3-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 21 IP, 7 BB, 35 K
Abbott's prospect standing suffers from him being only 6 feet in height, but to this point, in both college and the pros, durability hasn't been an issue. In fact, it's played a part in him putting together three straight double digit-strikeout efforts. Few pitchers in A-ball are already built up to six innings like he is. His fastball shows good swing-and-miss potential despite middling velocity, and he's recently developed a changeup to pair nicely with it. His unconventional profile will keep the hype to the minimum, but if he continues this level of dominance after he moves up to Double-A, he'll be a name to know.
Royber Salinas, SP, Braves
2021 minors: 3-3, 2.29 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 39 1/3 IP, 24 BB, 67 K
2022 minors: 0-1, 1.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 23 2/3 IP, 12 BB, 52 K
Who would you guess is the minor-league leader in strikeouts to this point? Probably not this guy, but it doesn't make it any less true -- and by a considerable margin. The Braves are developing a reputation for unearthing these bat-missing freaks. There was, of course, Spencer Strider last year, and Tanner Gordon, , also fits the bill. As for Salinas, the 21-year-old has struck out 21 while allowing just one hit in his past nine innings, and word is he's being promoted to high Class A. We'll see if he runs the gamut like Strider did last year.