In 2018, the Kansas City Royals used the second overall pick on a high school shortstop. As a 5-tool player, Bobby Witt Jr. is the future of the Royals. But he brings more than just his production on the field.
“[I] genuinely care about my teammates” was a common phrase echoed by Bobby Witt Jr. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the type of players Dayton Moore wants inside the Royals clubhouse and throughout the organization. Playing the game of baseball in Kansas City seems to have a requirement of compassion for everyone, not just an ability to play the game.
Royals owner, John Sherman, and Moore understand this and lead by example. During these unprecedented times, this type of leadership goes a long way with every player, employee, and fan, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed this year.
"It means so much and I am truly grateful to be a part of an organization that truly cares about the players not only on the field but off the field. It’s hard to find a word of how much the organization respects each and every player, staff, coaches, and everyone else that is involved and during this time they have done in the right way for sure! I’m honored to be apart of one of the best sports organization during these hard times!"
When you create this type of culture, players and personnel will continuously go to war with each other.
On the field
When it comes to clubhouse comradery and building up those around you so the team has success, Witt Jr. already checks the boxes. As for the on the field production, Witt Jr. might be even better.
"I would say that I have the ability to use all 5 tools and have a true love and passion for the game. So saying that, I love to win and help the team in any way possible. Also, I bring a lot of energy to the game and genuinely care about my teammates."
Leading up to the draft, Witt Jr. was hitting an impressive .482/.565/1.043 with 38 extra-base hits and was considered an above-average defender. Jim Callis of MLB.com had Witt Jr. ranked as the second-best shortstop prospect ever leading up to the draft, behind just Alex Rodriguez. With all the intangibles Witt Jr. has it made the pick easy for the Royals.
During his first year as a professional, Witt Jr. hit .262/.317/.354 with two doubles, five triples, and one homerun. However, those numbers are a bit deceiving when looking at his overall development of over his first 37 games.
"The biggest adjustment was getting into a good routine with it all because you are getting ready to play each and every day. I would also say the cultural change was an adjustment at first, but it was awesome getting to play with guys from all over the country and come together as a team and do what we love!"
Once Witt Jr. found his routine and was able to make the necessary adjustments, his season started turning around. Over the final 16 games of the year, Witt Jr. was hitting .304/.347/.435 with 3 triples and one home run.
"Throughout the whole season, I was really just thinking about the process over the outcome and trying to learn as much as possible, but I would say during the back half of the games I really settled in and was feeling very comfortable at the plate. Also, we had a great team and had a chance to get into the playoffs, so just trying to win really helped that as well."
Preparation and growth
Preparation, routines, and a strong mental mindset are crucial things for every player when they are developing.
Had 2020 been any other year, we would be closing in on the middle of the regular season of baseball. Meaning, routines, and development in full swing. The shutdown of all sports though has brought new challenges, and for some a concern of player development.
Knowing what the Royals organization already knows of Witt Jr.’s mentality, this wasn’t exactly a concern for the Royals front-office.
"No days are really normal anymore for me but throughout this quarantine, I’ve been able to get a lot of good work in each and every day and I’ve been able to get myself better not only physically but also mentally. Normal days would be to start by hitting in the cages and throwing and having some sort of glovework with that. On Monday, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s I lift after I get my baseball work in. Tuesday, Thursday’s I do my speed work. Also a couple of days a week I’ve been able to get out on a field and do some Live At-Bats and take ground balls and hit BP."
With the continued uncertainty of a minor league season and what will happen with their playing time, knowing that your top player is staying active and continuing to refine his game is comforting. It doesn’t replace playing time, but Witt Jr. is doing everything he possibly can to replicate that, while still refining his game.
Bobby Witt Jr. has more than just the ability to be a 5-tool player. As his passion for learning and refining his game continues to help him improve personally, he is also looking to bring an energy level to the clubhouse to keep players moving forward.
The future is bright for the Royals, and it is being led by a young superstar who already understands what true leadership looks like. He understands that talent is essential, but genuinely caring for one another is just as vital. Bobby Witt Jr. truly fits The Royal Way.