KC Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. needs to start year strong

(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Bobby Witt Jr. is one of the KC Royals’ most highly-touted prospects in franchise history. Starting his minor league season off strong would be great.

It’s no secret: The KC Royals have not been good for the past few seasons. After winning the World Series in 2015 and coming back down to earth the following two seasons, 2018 and 2019 were hard to watch. A 104-loss 2018 campaign did lead to a top pick in the MLB Draft, though, and last year’s record does the same. The pick last season? Bobby Witt Jr.

The son of a former major-leaguer, Witt entered the draft as a five-tool prospect. Scouts held him in high regard due to his terrific defense, good speed, immense raw power and an elite high school profile and resume. He was a sure-fire top-five pick and one of the best overall prospects in the entire draft, going to the Royals at No. 2.

In 37 games as a member of the Arizona League last season, Witt showed a little bit of everything. Posting a .262/.317/.354 line with a single home run and 27 RBIs wasn’t quite what the team had hoped for, but it was a productive slate of games for someone entering their first competitive environment as a professional. Witt also swiped nine bags during that span and lived up to his potential as a defender at shortstop.

On the other hand, the power wasn’t there and Witt did strike out 35 times. There is a bit of swing-and-miss worry surrounding his game, as his hit tool is his only non-elite trademark. He checks the rest of the boxes and literally has Major League Baseball traits embedded in his DNA.

How Witt responds this season will be telling. Mechanically, there’s a little bit of extracurricular movement in his swing. This is something that could lead to him potentially missing some pitches he’d otherwise make contact with. As he improves his fundamentals at the plate and fills out his frame a bit, both the contact and the power should become more apparent.

MLB Pipeline’s rankings have Witt as the Royals’ top prospect and peg him No. 10 in all of baseball. Baseball America ranks him 24th and The Athletic’s Keith Law has him 47th. Those last two certainly aren’t slights directed at Witt, though. Perhaps both lists simply want to see a full season of him before making any hasty moves.

Bobby Witt is going to be a pretty good MLB player. His ceiling will be determined by the adjustments he makes to his mechanics at the plate. The defense is there. The range, speed and footwork should allow him to excel at any position, as well as steal some bases in the process. If he can get on base more often and tap into his immense power potential, the KC Royals could be looking at a superstar down the road.

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Keep an eye on Witt’s progress throughout his 2020 season in the minor leagues.