As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Minor League Baseball’s St. Paul Saints sit at 38-32 in the second half of their season and out of the race for a spot in the best-of-three International League Championship Series. Their parent affiliate, Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins, find themselves in a better position at 81-72 on the year and possess a nine-game lead in the American League Central division.
If you, the reader, have followed the UConn Baseball team’s X page over the last 50 days, you have probably seen the hashtag “Promote Prato” at least once. The Huskies developed this hashtag for former baseball star and current Saints outfielder Anthony Prato, who has been on the doorstep of the Major Leagues in Triple-A for the past three months. Known for being very active on the social media platform formerly named Twitter, the Hook C has a valid argument for why Prato should be playing in the Major Leagues.
Hailing from the same high school—Poly Prep Country Day School—as UConn’s current starting shortstop, Bryan Padilla, Prato netted a .315 batting average and 91 RBIs in 178 career games with two NCAA Regional appearances. Sitting at 12th in program history in hits at 227, the 25-year-old New York City native earned First Team All-Conference honors in 2019 and two All-New England Third Team selections. Prato also thrived defensively, recording a .976 fielding percentage with 159 assists (15th most in one season) during his junior year in 2019 with SportsCenter Top Ten’s No. 1 play on May 31.
Minnesota drafted Prato as the 203rd overall pick in the seventh round in 2019, additionally selecting Major Leaguers Edouard Julien (18th round), Louie Varland (15th) and Spencer Steer (third) in that same draft. Not long after signing with the Twins, the right-handed slugger made a name for himself with a .268 batting average and 18 RBIs in his first 47 professional contests. Late in 2021, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 season, Prato started flashing his potential.
Appearing in 14 games for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the Connecticut alum did not record an error at multiple positions with 22 defensive assists and a .289 average. Prato stayed around those numbers through 45 contests with the Kernels in 2022 with a .271 batting average, five triples, 33 runs batted in and seven homers. This included going 2-4 with a triple and three RBIs on June 3, the New York City native’s last day playing High-A baseball before Minnesota promoted him to the Double-A Wichita Wind Surge.
In Cowtown (not to be confused with UConn), Prato whacked 22 doubles and 87 hits in as many regular-season games played. By the end of his 2022 campaign, which included three three-hit games in September, MiLB.com recognized the then 24-year-old as one of the Twins’ All-Star outfielders, along with former Husky Kyler Fedko and Major Leaguer Matt Wallner.
Prato’s 2023 season skyrocketed across the board once the Saints called him up on June 9. Hitting a lowly .171 in Double-A, the UConn product erupted for a .295 batting average, a team-leading 23 doubles and 42 RBIs in 70 games, of which included four straight games with two hits in his first full six-game Triple-A series. With every big play he had, the Hook C’s calls for his big-league promotion gradually got louder.
Those fans may be interested in seeing Prato make an appearance during the last week of the MLB regular season, but the hashtags and persistent promotions on X should be shelved until next spring. The two things blocking Prato’s clearest path to a Major League roster spot are Minnesota’s current stars and their prospect pool. Even though they have been decimated by injuries all season long, the stars all across the field make it hard for the former Husky to become the eighth Major Leaguer in the Jim Penders era.
Prato has spent most of his time in Saint Paul at third base, but former first-overall pick Royce Lewis, a feel-good story of his own, and a Twins’ single-season record of four grand slams in 18 games might have a say in that discussion. Carlos Correa, wrapping up the first of a six-year deal after a two-team contract debacle, and Kyle Farmer hold down the shortstop position while Julien and Jorge Polanco cover second base.
That leaves the outfield as the only position where the utility hitter could play in the Major Leagues, but obtaining a spot will not be easy because experienced veterans such as Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor and several others currently occupy the open spaces. Kepler has a $10 million club option next year, while both Taylor and Joey Gallo are unrestricted free agents, but even if none of those experienced hitters return in 2024, making the roster will not be a guarantee.
Out of Minnesota’s Top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, one has played a game in the Major Leagues, 12 are listed solely as outfielders, eight play shortstop and four can handle second base. Beyond the two prospects projected for a 2023 Major League debut, MLB.com predicts six prospects within the Twins’ organization will debut in 2024. No Connecticut alum holds a spot in Minnesota’s team-specific rankings, which could make it harder for Prato to secure a spot on the 40-man roster than a top prospect like shortstop Brooks Lee or utility player Austin Martin.
But rankings do not highlight the full scope of a team’s farm system; they just focus on their best players at that specific time. A strong offseason would not only secure the New York City native recognition as a top prospect within the organization but further increase his chances of playing with a power-heavy lineup next year in the pros. While the social media-based campaign must wait another year, Prato will fill one of the 40 open spots on the Twins’ main roster at some point in 2024.