In 2023 and beyond, fewer KC Royals players are under more pressure than shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.
The second overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft has had high expectations from Royals fans since day one. Witt has risen from a top draft prospect to a top minor league prospect and is now an everyday starter for the Royals. The pressure remains, as fans crave more from Witt.
KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. has his fair share of doubters and narratives after a rough April.
He has all of the tools to be a superstar shortstop, a premium that the Royals historically cannot afford on the open market. The pressure is on Witt to realize his full potential and be a cornerstone for the next competitive Royals squad. That is why his below-average performance in 2023 so far is under so much scrutiny.
Let's add some context and numbers to that scrutiny, though. There have been many narratives about Witt so far this season. With two truths and a lie, we will prove which is legit or not.
Claim #1: April is Bobby Witt Jr.'s worst month at the plate.
Through the month of April, Witt has struggled at the top of Kansas City's lineup. Manager Matt Quatraro has kept Witt in the lineup's top three all season because that is where he profiles best. Great speed on the basepaths, a solid bat—all those tools work best for the leadoff man. But the tools are not translating into production.
Witt's .659 OPS and 77 wRC+ this season are below league average and not what fans want from the franchise's future. He was drawing walks in spring training, a promising sign for his plate approach and threat as a leadoff man. But a 5.6% BB% and 33.9% chase rate are not going to scare many opposing pitchers. All in all, this has not been a banner year for Bobby's bat.
But things can always get worse. Last April was noticeably worse than this season for Witt; a 52 wRC+, .558 OPS, and 2.6% BB% are all eye-popping bad numbers. Sure, it was his debut month in the majors, and Witt was just 21 years old. They are still bad numbers nonetheless. Witt's first month in 2023 was significantly better than the 2022 iteration. Witt is not beyond criticism just because of the month, but the idea that he is just a slow starter to the season is not outlandish. After some more seasons under his belt, that narrative may gain traction. For now, Witt's April performance will definitely go down as a low point in the 2023 campaign.