Baseball’s labor war claimed its first victim earlier this week when big league spring training camps didn’t open. Shuttered by the MLB lockout, Florida and Arizona complexes—including the KC Royals’ spring quarters in Surprise—can’t welcome 40-man roster members until the clubs and union settle their differences.
More bad news came Friday when MLB announced cancellation of exhibition games through March 4. Unless the clubs and players manage to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement soon—quite soon, in fact—expect more games to get the axe.
Wiping the spring slate clean of a week’s worth of games means the Royals, who were scheduled to open their exhibition season Feb. 26 against Texas, lose seven games, including two with the Rangers and one each with San Francisco, Arizona, the White Sox, Milwaukee and San Diego.
What the lockout didn’t stop, however, is a minicamp the Royals opened Wednesday for minor leaguers who aren’t on the club’s 40-man roster. The get-together includes top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., whose turn in the batting cage Kansas City Star Royals beat writer Lynn Worthy shared on Twitter Friday:
So, is that swing sweet, or what?
Bobby Witt Jr. will play for the KC Royals in 2022, but where is the question.
Witt, of course, is Kansas City’s big league star-in-waiting, a can’t miss, all-tool talent who MLB Pipeline ranks as the third best prospect in the game and the KC organization’s best. Chances are good he’ll crack the club’s Opening Day roster.
And why not? He collected an impressive haul of awards, including Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year, after hitting .290 with 33 home runs, 97 RBIs, and 29 stolen bases in the minors last season.
But while Witt reaching the majors in 2022 is a certainty, where he’ll play isn’t, and the question probably won’t be resolved until well into spring training, or perhaps not even then. The Royals’ infield is jam-packed with talent, and the starting third base and shortstop jobs will be between Witt, Nicky Lopez, and Adalberto Mondesi. Witt will play either third or short, either Mondesi or Lopez will be the shortstop, and whoever doesn’t land that job could move to second if the club decides to shift Whit Merrifield to right field.
The first week of exhibition games has been cancelled.