Nick Pratto (KC): 1-4, HR, R, RBI.
One of the top prospects in the Kansas City Royals system, it’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy start for the 23-year-old first baseman, a first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
On the one hand, Nick Pratto has transitioned his power and patient eye at the plate to the Major League level. After 67 plate appearances with the Royals, he is generating an OPS of .706, and a walk rate of 13.4 percent, both solid marks.
On a fantasy end though, there still is a lot of work to do.
He is only hitting .196, and some of the batted-ball metrics are also concerning. His average exit velocity on batted balls is only 86.6 MPH, and his hard-hit rate is 38.2 percent. Comparatively, his hard-hit rate ranks in the middle of the pack for the Royals, and his average exit velocity is the third-worst mark of current Royals hitters, ahead of only utility infielder Nicky Lopez and backup catcher Sebastian Rivero.
That’s not what fans or fantasy managers would like to see from their starting first baseman.
Despite the ups and downs of his rookie debut, Pratto was the main star on Saturday night, even though he only collected one hit.
The pair of Red Sox pitchers retired 15 straight Royals hitters until Pratto’s at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and Pratto, who had struck out twice in his previous two at-bats, up at the plate, it looked like a sure deal that the fans at Kauffman Stadium would be treated to extra baseball on Saturday night.
However, on a 3-2 count, Pratto launched Whitlock’s pitch 424 feet over the center field wall. Not only was it Pratto’s first home run at Kauffman, but it was also his first walk-off home run to boot as well as the first walk-off from a Royals rookie left-handed hitter since Dee Brown in 2001.
Pratto is no stranger to the big moment. 11 years ago, the California native also produced the game-winning hit in the Little League World Series championship.
There still is a long way to go for Pratto, and his batting average and strikeout rates at the Major League level will be important developments to watch over the next two months.
But for now, at least Royals fans and fantasy managers know that Pratto has a penchant for the big moment.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Jose Barrero (CIN): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Barrero got called up on August 3rd after some movement by the Reds at the Trade Deadline. After zero hits in his first six MLB plate appearances in 2022, the 24-year-old had a game to remember on Saturday, as he hit the first two MLB home runs of his career against the Milwaukee Brewers. It will be interesting to see if Barrero sticks at the MLB level, as he has a career OPS of .530 in 134 plate appearances, and he is coming off a pretty bad Triple-A campaign this year as well (.639 OPS in 237 plate appearances). Nonetheless, the Reds are clearly rebuilding, so Barrero will get his opportunities over the next two months.
J.T. Realmuto (PHI): 2-5, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
The Phillies roughed up Washington’s Patrick Corbin, as they were able to get six runs on five hits against the Nationals starter in 0.2 IP. Realmuto didn’t get his HR off of Corbin, but he did hit his 12th of the year in the bottom of the sixth, and also added three RBI to his stellar line. Realmuto is posting a .780 OPS and has really looked like the Realmuto of old over the past two months after a slow start to the 2022 season.
Will Smith (LAD): 2-2, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, SB.
The Dodgers took care of business against division rival San Diego, as they won 8-3 on Saturday night at Dodgers Stadium. Smith was a huge catalyst in the Dodgers’ victory, as he not only collected two hits, but also three RBI, a home run, and a stolen base. That kind of line is impressive for any hitter, let alone a catcher. Smith continues to be one of the most productive fantasy catchers out there, as he has hit 16 home runs and is posting an OPS of .839 over 384 plate appearances this season.
LaMonte Wade Jr. (SF): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
After posting a .808 OPS with the Giants in 2021, Wade has unfortunately been dogged by injuries this season. He is only hitting .187 with a .680 OPS in 108 plate appearances. Granted, the walk rate is up, and the K rate is down from a year ago, which is good. However, his hard-hit rate has declined 3.7 percent from a year ago, which is not a promising sign. On Saturday, Wade did hit a home run and collected two RBI, so maybe he is finally fully healthy. That could make him a possible waiver wire or FAAB target for the stretch run of fantasy seasons.
Andrew McCutchen (MIL): 1-2, HR, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
There were a lot of talks that the Brewers were going to acquire an outfielder at the Trade Deadline, mostly due to the struggles of McCutchen this year in April and May. Since June though, McCutchen has come into form. In the second half, he is posting an OPS of .827, which is fueled by his slugging, which has improved by 77 points in the second half. He is still available in 54 percent of Yahoo leagues and 43 percent of ESPN leagues, so he may be worth picking up now if available, especially since he probably won’t be for much longer if he keeps this up.
David Fletcher (LAA): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Fletcher helped fuel the Angels to a 7-1 win in game two of their doubleheader against the Mariners on Saturday. Not only did he hit a big home run, but he also produced three RBI as well. Fletcher has been a non-factor fantasy-wise this year, as he is hitting .220 with a .694 OPS in 64 plate appearances. It will be interesting if he will get more at-bats over the next two months, especially with the Trade Deadline past, and the Angels clearly in rebuilding mode. At 28 years old, it doesn’t seem likely.
Luis Arraez (MIN): 3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Arraez is a fantasy anomaly as almost all of his value is tied to batting average. He only has six home runs and three stolen bases this year, but he is hitting .325 and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. On Saturday, he collected three hits (including two doubles). For good measure, he also stole a base. It’ll be nice if Arraez can reach that 10-10 home run-to-stolen base ratio by season’s end, which could make him a dark horse candidate in 2023 drafts.
Bo Bichette (TOR): 2-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
The Blue Jays lost to the Twins 7-3, but Bichette did his part with a two-hit, three-RBI performance which included his 15th home run of the year. Bichette has been a bit underwhelming this year, as he is only hitting .262 this year with a .727 OPS, both career-worst marks. On a fantasy end, he’ll be an intriguing decision for fantasy managers in dynasty and keeper leagues this offseason. For Blue Jays fans, his next couple of months will be crucial, especially since it will probably have an impact on their postseason chances.
P.J. Higgins (CHC): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.
The Cubs decided to keep Willson Contreras after all, so that means less time after the Trade Deadline for backup catcher Higgins. Even though it’s a small sample size (106 plate appearances), Higgins has performed well this year on the North Side, as he is hitting .287 with a .894 OPS that also includes five home runs and 17 RBI. Keeping Contreras at the Deadline doesn’t mean the longtime catcher will be back in 2023, but it does mean that the Cubs front office is at least entertaining the idea. However, a strong finish from Higgins could make that Contreras return a lot more complicated.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)