The Kansas City Royals saw a lot of young players on the field last season, but two of their best rookies were first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and infielder Bobby Witt Jr.
Witt started the 2022 season with the Premier League club and although some of his numbers fell short of expectations and Witt was not nominated as a finalist for the American League Rookie of the Year award, he was still very successful. Witt joined the 20-20 club in his very first season in the majors and made what appeared to be countless games at the Web Gem level, giving the club a glimpse of the future. Witt is arguably the face of the Royals organization now and tasked with coming back even better in his second year.
Pasquantino, on the other hand, did not start the season with the MLB club but batted once at the elite level. The ‘Italian Nightmare’ has been slashed open. 295/.383/.450 in 72 games and posted an impressive 137 wRC+, earning him national recognition on numerous occasions. In a recent appearance at the from 9 podcastPasquantino revealed he had never played with Witt at all – not even for fun – before joining him at the royals.
“So I actually never played with him until I got into the big leagues,” said Pasquantino. “Not even really in the backfields or anything. He and I were never connected in our journey to the big leagues. When I started in High-A, he was in Double-A. When I was promoted to Double-A, the same day he was promoted to Triple-A. I guess the first time I ever played with him was spring training this year.”
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Pasquantino was a slightly older prospect and didn’t follow the same timeline as Witt, but the two are tearing it up in the same squad now. Witt, a top pick in the 2019 MLB draft, had a lot more eyes on him during his drafting process and subsequent stints in the minor leagues. As the son of a former big league player, Witt set the bar high from the moment his pick was announced. According to Pasquantino, that didn’t affect him at all.
“I mean, he’s just amazing,” said Pasquantino. “In terms of character, there is no one who is better. It’s hard to be No. 2 in the draft and carry the weight of the franchise a little bit on your shoulders for a few years when you’re in the minor leagues and then arriving like he did. I think he has mastered everything under control.
Along with Witt and Pasquantino, Kansas City is investing in what may be baseball’s biggest youth movement of 2022. In a September win against the Detroit Tigers, the Royals became the first team ever to have four different rookies hit a home run in the same game. After Pasquantino was promoted and even as the season progressed, more and more inexperienced players were given the chance to win valuable repeats at the big league level.
The core of the Royals’ young players doesn’t stop at two. At least catcher/outfielder MJ Melendez is someone who can also be considered a member of this group. The 23-year-old played in 129 games for the club in 2022, averaging a .313 OBP with 18 homers and a 12.4% walk rate. Kansas City’s “Big Three” are cause for hope for further progress, and Pasquantino is still in awe of Witt and Melendez and the timing of when he can join them a little later in the season.
“When I first played with him and a couple of other guys it was like a star moment for me because it was always a goal to be in the big leagues but it never really became a reality until this year said Pasquantino. “So I used to watch these guys from afar and be like, ‘Okay, that’s what the big guys look like. I want to try to be like her.’ Being on the field at the same time as them was just very special for me.”