Not every player in the Royals’ farm system comes from a major university or big-time prep high school. There are some who come from small towns and little known universities such as the one in northeastern Missouri where the campus of Truman State University is located. If you are reading this blog then chances are you know of the Eric Hosmers, Wil Myers, and Mike Montgomerys of the world. Well now it’s time to put the spotlight on Holt, Missouri native, Christian Witt, who completed his first professional season this past summer with the rookie-level AZL Royals.
Not only is Witt a Royals minor league player, but he’s also a great friend and former teammate of mine at Truman St. It was no surprise to us at Truman when Witt was drafted in the 36th round in June of 2011. We had all been around and seen the scouts at various games last spring, and were very aware that they came to see the 93 mph fastball that he seems to effortlessly hurl out of his right hand towards home plate.
However, a few years ago no one on the team would have thought this would be happening for him. When he first arrived to Truman he possessed an average mid 80s fastball for a collegiate pitcher, but was no where near an elite talent. After having to red shirt his freshman season due to a grade 2 UCL sprain suffered at Emporia St., in only his second collegiate start, Witt bounced back by rehabbing and dropping nearly 50 pounds from his frame in his return to school the next fall. I believe this weight loss and added conditioning aided Witt immensely. He started the next fall by touching 90 on the radar gun several times and by dropping in a monster 12-6 curve that dropped off the table and buckled opposing hitters.
It was known by some on the team that he had a chance, albeit small, of getting drafted at this point. If he could light up the radar and put up some dazzling numbers in the spring then he certainly would raise the probability for his chances of getting drafted. He did just that. Witt posted a 2.70 ERA in 36 innings while accumulating a win-loss record of 4-2. He also stockpiled 43 strikeouts to only 10 walks. He was named MIAA Pitcher of the Week twice, and was placed on the honorable mention all-MIAA team. His eye-popping K:BB ratio and his sizzling fastball got the attention of many scouts in the area, including the Royals.
On the third day of the First-Year MLB player draft, Witt was selected by the Royals in the 36th round. He would soon sign only days after so he could start his journey through the minor leagues in Surprise, Arizona, where all draft picks report. Witt began his professional career with two starts. These are definitely two starts he’d like to have back. With the build up of nerves and some bad luck he amassed a 0-2 record and a 50.14 ERA in just 2.1 innings of work. This is not the start one would have in mind, that’s for sure. Because of this the Royals decided to make a move and placed Witt in the bullpen, a role in which he’s always been more comfortable in, at the beginning of July.
In this bullpen role, he went 1-0 with a stellar 1.98 ERA in 8 outings which also included a save. He went on to collect two more wins in August, but had one rough outing that ballooned his August ERA to 9.26. Witt settled down very nicely after shaking off his nerves of his first two professional outings and went on to rebound and end the summer with a respectable 3-3 record and a skewed ERA of 9.11. He still maintained a good K:BB ratio over the summer while striking out 19 and only walking 7 in 27.2 innings. He has made many strides over the summer and was able to put his bad start behind him. He reports to spring training March 1st, and I look forward to hearing updates throughout the spring from him as well as following whatever team he winds up on this summer, whether it’s Idaho Falls or with the AZL Royals again. Whatever team it is, I know Witt will work just as hard as I’ve seen him work at Truman, if not harder, and will continue to progress as a professional pitcher. Witt’s success and accomplishments so far are a great story and proof that talent can come from anywhere.
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