The chaos of last winter's MLB Lockout increased the uncertainty surrounding the KC Royals, a team frustratingly caught in a halting rebuild with no end in sight. The Royals hadn't bettered ,500 since winning the World Series in 2015, the pitching and hitting had been suspect for too long, and fans were sure to be screaming for the heads of the manager and pitching coach before midseason.
There was, however, one things the Royals, and even their fans, could confidently hang their hats on, and it was important.
Bobby Witt Jr. would make his major league debut. Barring a lockout-destroyed season or some horrific injury, Witt stepping on the big league stage for the first time was going to happen.
And he did. Witt started at third base when the campaign began a few days late and, in his final at-bat of the Kauffman Stadium afternoon, doubled in Michael A. Taylor with what proved to be the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
Witt played 149 more times before the Royals' debacle of a season came to a merciful end with an Oct. 5 loss in Cleveland, a defeat followed a few hours later by the firings of manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred. There would be no rookie season playoff appearance for Witt and no big awards.
That doesn't mean, though, that he didn't have a good debut.
How should Bobby Witt Jr.'s rookie season for the KC Royals be graded?
His 2022 numbers tell much of what needs to be understood about Witt's first year in the big leagues. He may not have hit as many homers as many expected, but the 20 he did club (eight at The K and 12 on the road) were just fine. Added to those homers, his 31 doubles and 30 stolen bases gave him a nice 20-20-20 season.
And although his .254/.294/.428 slash, 99 wRC+ and 102 OPS+ certainly require improvement within the context of his potential, they're decent numbers for any first-year big leaguer.
Witt's glove, while occasionally spectacular and usually sufficient, can nevertheless stand improvement. He played most frequently at shortstop (98 games, to be precise, compared to 55 at third) but made 16 errors in 388 chances; he committed three in 125 chances at third. The Royals seem to prefer him at short, so settling in there next season (or at the hot corner if plans change) should help stabilize his defense.
The bottom line for Witt's 2022 grade? All things considered, we'll give him a solid B+. Watch for him to post his first major league A in 2023.
Bobby Witt Jr. had a good rookie season for the Royals.