California product is former Little League World Series hero
By Wilson Alexander
KANSAS CITY -- In 2011, Nick Pratto hit a two-out, walk-off single to center to propel Huntington Beach, Calif., to a victory over Japan in the Little League World Series championship game. On Monday night, the Royals selected Pratto with their first-round pick (No. 14 overall) in the 2017 Draft.
"Words can't really describe it," Pratto said. "There's a weird feeling going through my body."
The former Little League hero is now a 6-foot-1, 193-pound first baseman. Pratto hit .318 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in his senior season at Huntington Beach High School, and MLB Pipeline.com ranked him as the No. 13 prospect in the Draft. He was rated as the best high school hitter in the Draft, according to Baseball America.
A little later in the Draft, Pratto's high school teammate and "best friend," catcher Hagen Danner, who was also on that LLWS championship team, was selected 61st overall by the Blue Jays. After Pratto was drafted, he went to be with his friend.
"It's special to have something like that," Pratto said.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he doesn't see a comparison to Kansas City first baseman Eric Hosmer, but that Pratto is a plus defender at first base. Moore also said Pratto can play the outfield.
"I know there were teams that were looking at him as an outfielder," Moore said. "He's an elite defender."
Added Moore: "He's a guy who can use all of the field as a hitter. He's got power that we believe will develop. He has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. He's a proven winner."
Pratto said he learned to settle his emotions at that Little League World Series, where his single came on a 2-0 pitch with the bases loaded. Since then, he has developed into what MLB Pipeline called "perhaps the best pure high school bat in the country."
To watch the Draft, Pratto was surrounded by over 100 family and friends, many of whom knew him when he hit the walk-off winner. As Commissioner Rob Manfred announced his name, Pratto raised both hands, much like he did after that walk-off hit six years ago. To be drafted, Pratto said, is a similar feeling to hitting his championship-winning single. Smiling, he hugged his parents.
Said Pratto, "This is a surreal moment."
Wilson Alexander is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.