The Draft Philes: The Little League Hero

Imagine being 18 years old, getting ready to be drafted by a Major League team, having already played on national television before. That’s the life of Nick Pratto. Six years ago at the age of 12, he stepped up to the plate against the always daunting Japan Little League team in the championship game of the Little League World Series. With the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 6th inning, Pratto stepped to the plate for the Huntington Beach (CA) squad in a 1-1 game and well, I’ll let Brent Musburger set the scene.

Pratto will cherish that moment for the rest of his life, but now he will try to follow in the footsteps of guys like Todd Frazier, Randall Grichuk and Colby Rasmus as Little League World Series stars who became successful Major Leaguers. Pratto falls in line with the Phillies’ recent first round pick philosophy. Pratto, like Moniak and Randolph, is considered to be the most advanced high school bat in the country; he has got a good approach and can hit for average. While he was a terrific pitcher in high school (there’s more game video of that than of him hitting), it is his bat and his glove at first base that warrants a first round pick. The only problem with Pratto is that he is a high schooler who may only be able to play first base at the next level. Since 2000, only five first baseman have been selected in the top 10, and three came out of high school; however those three have ended up to have pretty good careers (Adrian Gonzalez (’00), Prince Fielder (’02), Eric Hosmer (’08)). If the Phillies continue their recent trend in the first round, they will have to weigh whether or not he is talented enough to justify his positional limitation.

Nick Pratto, 1B, Huntington Beach HS (CA)

6’2, 195 lb

Bats/Throws: L/L

Rankings (as of 5/17): MLB.com #10, Baseball America #17, ESPN #9,

College Commitment: University of Southern California

Strengths

Good timing and a quiet, balanced swing. Starts with leg kick, stays back on ball after foot lands, gets good separation from upper half in his swing; allows him to stay back on the ball and adjust to pitches late.  Above average bat speed, wrists are loose; not much tension in his swing. Advanced approach at the plate, able to lay off breaking balls. Drives the ball with power to all fields. Good athleticism playing first base. Plus arm at the position and can throw it accurately; as a pitcher topped out at 91 mph, threw strikes.

Weaknesses

Has good raw power, doesn’t consistently show up in games though. Foot-speed is a bit below average; won’t be stealing bases, but enough speed to take the extra base.

Overall Assessment

Pratto’s only concern right now will be getting consistent in-game power from his plus raw power; while reports have been a bit more encouraging lately, it is with aluminum bats. He may be more doubles power to start until he gets strong enough to potentially hit 25 HR on a more consistent basis. If power becomes part of his arsenal, he could be a perennial All-Star. If it’s average, then he can still be an above average first baseman, winning multiple Gold Gloves with his tremendous defensive instincts and athleticism. His advanced approach in the box have him in line to be a .280 hitter with a .350 OBP, similar to an Eric Hosmer trajectory.

Author: Jeff Israel