116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — What he has done in the early going has kind of been lost in the shuffle because of the absurd production of teammate Christian Encarnacion-Strand.
His fingerprints were once again all over a C.R. win Saturday afternoon, this one 6-3 over Peoria at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Kernels are off to an 11-3 start.
Prato has drawn walks, gotten hits, scored runs, driven them in and even stolen some bags. You can’t ask a thing else from a leadoff guy.
He had leadoff doubles and scored runs in his first two at-bats here, picked up a sacrifice fly in his third and walked in his fourth.
“Definitely, yeah,” Prato said, when asked if he considers himself a stereotypical leadoff hitter. “And everyone says a stereotypical Northeasterner, too. Just finding a way on base and do what I can to cross the plate.”
Prato, 23, has a thick and unmistakable Brooklyn accent. He was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the seventh round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Connecticut.
He played a couple of games with the Kernels very late that season and spent the end of last season with them as well. A broken hamate bone forced a late start to 2021 for him, but he’s fully healthy now ... obviously.
“It’s good to be back,” he said.
“He has good at-bats and puts the ball in play,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “He’s been playing great defense for us at second, left field, wherever we need him to play. As a manager, he’s a guy you want. You can put him anywhere, and you know you’ll get a good at-bat.”
Prato is listed as a shortstop but has played second base, third base and left field for Cedar Rapids. He has played in all 14 games, fashioning a .333 batting average with a Midwest League-leading 17 runs, as well as 17 hits, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and five steals.
If Encarnacion-Strand weren’t hitting .421 and leading Minor League Baseball in runs driven in, you’d notice more what Prato has accomplished so far.
“I don’t really think I have a preferred position anymore,” he said. “As long as I’m in the lineup, I’ll play my best in the field wherever it is ... I honestly just try to go out there and play hard at whatever position I’m at. Let my bat make up for it if I have a tough day in the field.”
The Kernels have won four of the first five games of this series, with a finale coming Sunday afternoon at 2:05. It was encouraging to see the bottom half of the lineup produce in this game, as Will Holland went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs, Willie Joe Garry Jr. had a triple and scored and Alerick Soularie had a double and run.
Those three came in with batting averages between the low .200s and middle .100s.
“The top of the lineup has been pretty good for us,” Dinkelman said. “The bottom, it was good to see guys like Holland, Garry, Soularie have decent days. To get some production out of them, some ABs, a couple of big hits that scored runs, that was good to see.”
Bradley Hanner got the pitching win in relief, with Osiris German pitching a perfect ninth for his third save.
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