2023 has been the Bobby Witt Jr. Show for the KC Royals. The 23-year-old shortstop is tapping into the talent that made him the second overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. His second-half performance this season has me bullish on Bobby Baseball, but it is not just about potential anymore. Witt is producing.
The KC Royals have a legit superstar in Bobby Witt Jr.
Fans know all about his historic power and speed milestones. Earlier this summer, Witt became the first player in AL or NL history to have at least 20 home runs and at least 30 stolen bases in each of his first two seasons. His production in those areas has him compared to players like Mike Trout and Barry Bonds, generational talents and Hall of Fame-caliber players. But Witt's impact on the field is much greater than those two areas.
Witt is by far the Royals' best player, according to FanGraphs. He leads the Royals with 4.9 fWAR and the same metrics for baserunning, offensive output, and defensive abilities. This comes after Witt had a 228/.266/.430 batting line on June 1. As the summer heat ratcheted up, so did Witt's production at the plate.
In 31 second-half games, Witt doesn't just have a case as baseball's best position player. He has been. Witt is tied with Seattle's Julio Rodriguez with 2.2 fWAR as of Saturday, but Witt has the edge in baserunning and defense. Witt has a slash line of .336/.370/.664 in the second half, a line that Royals fans have not seen from an everyday player since George Brett. That is some very special company for Witt, whom CBS Sports' Mike Axisa called the Royals' "new franchise player".
Witt currently ranks sixth with 4.9 fWAR this season. No one is catching MVP-favorite Shohei Ohtani's 8.5 total fWAR, but Witt ranks ahead of superstars like Atlanta's Matt Olson and New York's Francisco Lindor. Those are not only big-money players, but franchise cornerstones for their respective teams. The fact that Witt is at their level before the end of his second professional season is astounding.
Royals fans have been starved for legitimate superstar talent for decades. Outfielder Carlos Beltran is likely the last player to wear a Royals uniform with Witt's talent level. Even Beltran only had .9 WAR in 2000, his age-23 season, where he only appeared in 98 games. His real superstar season was in 2001, when he had 6.5 WAR as a 24-year-old outfielder. Can Witt reach that next season? At this current pace, it certainly seems possible.
But back to this year. Witt is not an MVP candidate, although he will hopefully see some votes at the end of the season. His second-half production comes with improvements in several areas, mainly plate discipline and defense. The tools were always there, but this summer saw Witt reach superstar status. His standing at the top of baseball in value, albeit in the season's second half, only exemplifies that status.