The Kansas City Royals were known throughout the baseball world this season for fully embracing their youth movement and fielding a ton of rookies, and some of those players are now being recognized for their efforts.
MLB Pipeline recently published its picks for All-Rookie First and Second Team, citing this year as potentially “being one of the most talented rookie classes in history.” For the Royals, that included the likes of infielder Bobby Witt Jr., first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino and catcher/outfielder MJ Melendez. All three landed on MLB Pipeline‘s list(s), with Witt and Pasquantino being First Team selections and Melendez making the Second Team. Here’s what Sam Dykstra wrote about Witt:
Witt’s power and speed played quickly in the bigs with a 20-30 season, and the Statcast numbers back that up as he ranked in the 92nd percentile for max exit velo and 100th for sprint speed. Some room for growth with his defense and chase rate means the 22-year-old is by no means finished developing.
Dykstra was pretty much on the money with his assessment of Witt, as Kansas City’s first-year phenom put up some impressive numbers but also displayed plenty of room for growth. It’s easy to look back on the hype surrounding Witt heading into the 2022 campaign and argue that he underwhelmed, although it’s hard to consider his blend of speed, power and potential and not think that he still managed to make a tremendous impact in year one. As far as Pasquantino was concerned, Dykstra wrote the following:
True to his Minor League form, Pasquantino walked more times (35) than he struck out (34) and still managed to show good power from the left side. He should be a factor in the middle of the KC lineup for a long time.
Pasquantino was extremely impressive as a rookie, posting a slash line of .295/.383/.450 with a 137 wRC+ in 72 games. With respective walk and strikeout rates of 11.7% and 11.4%, there wasn’t much to nitpick at or dislike about year-one production from the ‘Italian Nightmare’. Pasquantino did lose some power upon returning from injury and otherwise ending the 2022 season on a tear, but he remains a candidate to slot into a long-term spot in the Royals’ lineup.
Melendez had a mixed bag of a rookie season, clubbing 18 home runs and walking 12.4% of the time but also posting a .217 batting average and matching Witt with a 99 wRC+. His struggles on defense were also obvious throughout the year, and there isn’t a clear way to determine as of right now whether the Royals plan to commit more to him as a catcher or outfielder. Nevertheless, his debut campaign left plenty of reasons to be intrigued by his profile and follow his development moving forward.