The 2023 season has been one to forget so far for the KC Royals. The fan base would welcome a record reset following the All-Star break, while the team isn't sniffing .500 in a terrible AL Central. Even in bad seasons, there are usually some bright spots for the Royals, and one such spot was supposed to be shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.
KC Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. fails to be a consistent gamechanger
The former top prospect had some great moments in 2022 but ultimately struggled with consistency. Even tepid predictions had Witt taking significant steps forward in 2023, offensively and defensively. The metrics say Witt is a better defender than last year, but several defensive and baserunning blunders in recent games have caused uncertainty about his overall development. The raw traits are still apparent in Witt's speed, arm strength, and powerful bat. But there is no concrete backing anymore for Witt to be the Royals' face of the franchise. That remains pitcher Zack Greinke's role, even after all these years.
For reference, Witt has fewer wins above replacement than pitcher Kris Bubic, who only made three starts this season. Royals fans were already frustrated with his struggles against the fastball and strikeouts, but his recent mental mistakes have only added to their disappointment. There is still time for Witt to turn things around, but his recent errors have put him in the fans' doghouse.
Fans are hoping he can regain his confidence, and a good way to do that is by impacting the game when it matters most. There are several players from my childhood that I know only for their performance in one or two moments rather than them having a good career. Sometimes, one clutch play can make all the difference in how a player is remembered. Instead, it is how poorly Witt has performed when it matters most that annoys fans. His offensive numbers in high-leverage situations are not only the worst in Kansas City but also near the bottom for 256 MLB players with at least 25 plate appearances.
- .325 OPS (last in Kansas City, 255th in MLB)
- .089 BA (second-last in Kansas City, 254th in MLB)
- 15 Ks (most in Kansas City, t-20th in MLB)
- .8 runs created (second-last in Kansas City, 250th in MLB)
To be transparent, most of the Royals bats struggle in high-leverage situations. There could be numerous reasons for this, but fans care more about the result than manager Matt Quatraro's "process".
“That’s what coaching is,” Quatraro said after the Miami Marlins swept the Royals on June 7. “It’s continuing to teach. It’s continuing to remind. It’s continuing to put a process for these guys.'Were you thinking about what could happen on this play? Or, if you weren’t, why and what distracted you? What was your mind like?' Just continuing to coach and teach and get things back to what can be the best version of ourselves.”
Quatraro's heart is in the right place, but Witt's bat is not. If the second-year player wants to change the narrative around him, producing when it matters most would help. After all, these Royals need all the help they can get.