Bobby Witt Jr.

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Robert Andrew Witt Jr.

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Biographical Information[edit]

The son of pitcher Bobby Witt, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. was selected second overall in the 2019 amateur draft by the Kansas City Royals. He was coming off an outstanding season at Colleyville Heritage High School in Colleyville, TX and was really the only other player mentioned as a potential first overall pick apart from C Adley Rutschman of Oregon State University, whom the Baltimore Orioles selected just before him. Because his father was picked #3 in the 1985 amateur draft, it made the two the highest father-son combination ever drafted, besting that of Tom Grieve (#6 in 1966) and Ben Grieve (#2 in 1994). On June 9th, it was reported that he had agreed to sign with the Royals for a bonus of $7.8 million.

He was considered to have excellent defensive tools that made him a natural shortstop, in addition to some of the best hitting ability of any high schooler that year, with above average power. He was also an excellent pitcher, hitting the upper 90s on the radar gun, although he was not looked at seriously as a pitcher given his other skills. It was also noted that he had a tremendous work ethic and was particularly well grounded for a young player of such talent. As a high school senior, he hit .489 with 15 homers and was named the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year.

In his first professional season in 2019, he played 37 games for the AZL Royals, hitting .262 with 1 homer and 27 RBIs, and also 5 triples. It was a good start to his pro career, but his 2020 season was wiped out by the Coronavirus pandemic which shut down the minor leagues. Still, as one of the top prospects in the Royals system, he was kept in the group of players playing practice games at the team's alternate training site, so he could at least work out with some top competition. Still he had very little professional game experience when he showed up in spring training with the major league team as a non-roster invitee in 2020. It was clear however that he was a special talent, to the point that the team's brass had to explain that they had not completely excluded his making the team's roster. He was clearly seen as the Royals' second baseman of the future, playing alongside SS Adalberto Mondesi and hitting either first or second in the lineup. Still, going straight from Rookie-class ball to the majors would have been a huge - albeit not unprecedented - step and on March 21st, the Royals announced he would open the season in the minors. He was slugging .526 after 14 games, so he was clearly not outmatched.

He started the 2021 season with the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals, but did not immediately set the world on fire as he hit .209 over his first 21 games, with 30 strikeouts. On May 30th, however, he had the first three-homer game of his professional career, after having also homered the night before. On June 8th, the same night when Ke'Bryan Hayes made blooper reels across the country for having a home run taken away from him because he failed to touch first base, he made a similar mistake. In his case, it was his second homer of the game, and the base he has supposedly missed touching was home plate. He was called out on appeal by home plate umpire Chris Presley-Murphy, but in his case, the video evidence was far from clear, and he insisted after the game that he had, indeed, touched home as required. The home run that stood gave him a league-leading 10 on the season. The other would-be homer ended up being counted as a triple. He was named to represent the American League at the 2021 Futures Game. Shortly after the game, on July 17th, he was promoted to the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers along with fellow prospect Nick Pratto, who as also fresh off a participation in the Futures Game. In 60 games for the Naturals, he had hit .292 with 16 homers and 50 RBIs. He then played one more game in AA before earning a promotion to the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers, where he continued his outstanding production, batting .,285 with 17 homers. Overall, in 123 games, he hit .290/.361/.575 with 33 homers, 35 doubles and 29 stolen bases. He was named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year after the season.

Heading into spring training in 2022, he was named the #1 prospect on MLB's Top 100 Prospects list. This time there was a very real possibility of his breaking camp with the major league team and indeed this was confirmed by the Royals on April 5th. He was the Royals' starting third baseman and number 2 hitter against the Cleveland Guardians on Opening Day on April 7th. In the best Hollywood style, he was the game's hero when in the 8th inning, his first big league hit was a double off Triston McKenzie that drove in Michael Taylor with the go-ahead run, and shortly afterwards he came around to score an insurance run in a 3-1 Royals win. Despite that textbook debut, he struggled in his first few weeks in the Show, batting just .216 with 5 RBIs in 19 April games. He finally hit his first home run on May 3rd, off Dakota Hudson of the St. Louis Cardinals. He had started to turn things around by that point, as the long ball gave him an 11-game hitting streak. He had back-to-back excellent games on May 27-28, going 3-for-5 in both games against the Minnesota Twins, with a triple and a homer in the first game, and three doubles in the second. He had his first multi-homer game on June 21st, in one of the wildest games of the year that saw KC beat the Los Angeles Angels, 12-11, in 11 innings. He drove in 5 runs, but Shohei Ohtani stole the spotlight with 2 homers of his own and 8 RBIs in a losing cause. On July 11th, he collected six hits in a doubleheader sweep of the Detroit Tigers, including his first career four-hit game inthe nitecap. He also drove in 3 runs and stole three bases in what was a great day overall. On September 3rd, he hit his 20th homer and thus became the fifth rookie to have a season of 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. On September 13th, he broke up a bid for a combined no-hitter by Minnesota Twins pitchers Joe Ryan and Jovani Moran with a one-out double off Moran in the 9th. He finished the year at .254 in 150 games, with 31 doubles, 6 triples and 20 homers, 82 runs and 82 RBIs. His OPS+ was 102 and he was named to the 2022 Topps All-Star Rookie Team as the third baseman (he played 55 games at the hot corner and 98 at shortstop), with Jeremy Peña of the Houston Astros winning the nod at shortstop. He also finished 4th in the voting for the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Award, behind winner Julio Rodríguez, Rutschman, the man taken ahead of him in the 2019 amateur draft, and Steven Kwan, with Peña finishing behind him.

In 2023, he had an excellent season for a very weak Royals team, becoming a member of the 30-30 club for the first time. He entered the elite fraternity on September 29th, when he belted his 30th homer, having already reached 30 stolen bases long before that (in fact, he was at 49 steals at that point and still had a chance at accomplishing a very rare 30-50 season). He was the third player to join the club that year, following the much more publicized Ronald Acuna and Julio Rodríguez. He was also the American League leader in triples and generally improved his numbers across the board over his rookie year, when he had already posted solid totals. In spite of this, he was not named to the All-Star team, in large part because his teammate, catcher Salvador Perez, was a lock, and the Royals were playing too poorly to justify taking two spots on the AL roster. He finished at .276 in 158 games, with 28 doubles, 11 tripes, 30 homers, 97 runs and 96 RBIs. He was unable to collect his 50th steal, finishing at 49, and led the AL with 15 caught stealing. His OPS+ was 120 and he was seventh in the MVP Award voting.

On February 5, 2024, he signed a historic contract extension with the Royals, as it was for a minimum of 11 seasons and could last up to 14, or 2034 at a minimum and up to 2037 if it reaches its full extension. It was the first time the Royals had ever granted a contract of ten or more seasons, and its value was estimated at $288.7 million at a minimum, and up to $377.7 million over the full 14 years. The contract guaranteed that Witt would be the face of the franchise over the next decade.

In addition to his father's time in professional baseball, he is the brother-in-law of three major leaguers, each married to one of his sisters: James Russell, married to Nikki; Zach Neal, married to Kianna,; and Cody Thomas, married to Shaley. His uncle Doug Witt was a bullpen catcher for the Texas Rangers and later became a scout.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "Why Witt could be the next 5-tool star", mlb.com, July 1, 2022. [1]
  • David Adler: "Don't look now, but Witt Jr.'s breakout a long time coming", mlb.com, August 6, 2023. [2]
  • Michael Avallone: "Pressure simply 'motivation' for KC's Witt Jr.", mlb.com, February 9, 2022. [3]
  • Carlos Collazo: "Bobby Witt Jr.: 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year", Baseball America, October 4, 2021. [4]
  • Vahe Gregorian (The Kansas City Star): "What Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr. learned from trying to ‘change the team’ as rookie", Yahoo! News, March 6, 2023. [5]
  • Tyler Maun: "Witt loses HR by missing home plate", mlb.com, June 8, 2021. [6]
  • Jonathan Mayo: "Top Draft prospect Witt Jr. unfazed by expectations", mlb.com, June 22, 2018. [7]
  • Manny Randhawa: "Who is Bobby Witt Jr.?", mlb.com, March 17, 2022. [8]
  • Anne Rogers: "KC 'open-minded' on Witt Jr. making roster", mlb.com, March 17, 2021. [9]
  • Anne Rogers: "Winter work has Witt Jr. 'itching' to compete", mlb.com, December 23, 2021. [10]
  • Anne Rogers: "No. 1 prospect Witt makes KC's Opening Day roster", mlb.com, April 5, 2022. [11]
  • Anne Rogers: "Witt delivers decisive 1st hit in MLB debut", mlb.com, April 7, 2022. [12]
  • Anne Rogers: "Witt Jr. and brother-in-law Zach Neal meet in the Majors", mlb.com, August 24, 2023. [13]
  • Anne Rogers: "Royals make Witt face of franchise with historic extension: Superstar shortstop signs 14-year megadeal, with 11 guaranteed seasons", mlb.com, February 5, 2024. [14]

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