Even before he played his first big league game back in April, the number of KC Royals fans who thought Bobby Witt Jr. wouldn’t be the American League Rookie of the Year were probably countable on two hands. Such was the extent of his potential, the height of the hype, and the size of the buildup.
And after all was said and done and Witt hit 20 homers, stole 30 bases and knocked in 80 runs, led the club in hits, runs, steals, RBIs, runs scored and doubles and triples, and played more games than any other Royal to put himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation, he fell short of the prize he’ll only have one chance to win.
The Baseball Writers Association of America announced each league’s ROY winner Monday evening and Witt finished fourth in the AL behind winner Julio Rodríguez of Seattle, Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman, and Cleveland’s Steven Kwan.
Just hours before, though, Witt received one of Kansas City’s big team awards from the BBWAA’s Kansas City members:
Witt winning the Les Milgram Player of the Year award makes perfect sense. He paced the Royals in all those categories, missed only a dozen games, and displayed some versatility by playing shortstop and third base. He also served as DH twice. And although he hit only .254, Witt’s future is bright.
The KC writers also made the right choice by picking Brady Singer as the Bruce Rice Pitcher of the Year. He started slowly and even spent part of April and March in the minors but, finally and consistently looking like the pitcher the Royals knew he could be when they made him their first 2018 draft pick, finished the season 10-5 to become the first KC hurler to win 10 games since 2017.
Now clearly established as Kansas City’s ace, Singer also posted a starting rotation and career best 3.23 ERA and struck out 19 more batters (150) than his previous best.
Salvador Perez didn’t have the type of record-breaking campaign he did in 2021 and missed almost seven weeks with a thumb issue, but still won the Joe Burke Special Achievement Award. His 23 homers led Kansas City, he drove in at least 70 runs (76) for the seventh time in his 11-year career, and gunned down 34% of runners who tried to steal on him, a mark well above league average.
Witt has another shot at a 2022 award—he and teammate Scott Barlow were recently named by Major League Baseball as finalists for the annual All-MLB Team. Fans can vote in English here or in Spanish here; voting is open through 4 p.m. CDT Nov. 22.
The KC Royals and manager Matt Quatraro have a brand new bench coach.
A little over two weeks after naming Matt Quatraro their new manager, the Royals gave him a new bench coach Monday when they announced Paul Hoover will assume the job (Twitter link).
Hoover replaces Pedro Grifol, who left Kansas City to become manager of the Chicago White Sox. Hoover, a name many KC fans have probably never heard, comes from the Tampa Bay Rays, where he worked with Quatraro, was Major League Field Coordinator, and he coached Tampa’s catchers.
He spent most of his playing career in the minors but appeared in the majors with Miami, Philadelphia and Tampa, hitting .227 in 40 games spread over seven seasons.
Two former KC Royals fan favorites are headed in different directions.
A pair of players who played key roles in Kansas City’s 2014 and 2015 World Series runs find themselves at opposite ends of the employment spectrum for next season.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, traded by San Diego to Boston at the 2022 trade deadline with a little over three seasons left on the eight-year, $144 million deal with which the Padres lured him away from Kansas City five years ago, didn’t exercise his right to opt out and will return to the Red Sox.
Pitcher Danny Duffy understandably didn’t have his team option picked up by the Dodgers and is a free agent. Injury issues have prevented the lefthander from appearing in a big league game since LA acquired him from the Royals at the 2021 trade deadline.
As always, watch this space for more Royals news.