The Bobby Witt Jr. era has begun in Kansas City. Thursday afternoon, Witt introduced himself to the Royals faithful with a go-ahead run-scoring double in the eighth inning to lead his club to an Opening Day win over the Cleveland Guardians (KC 3, CLE 1). The double was Witt’s first career hit and RBI, and the Kauffman Stadium crowd chanted “Bobby! Bobby!” throughout the at-bat.
Here’s the video:
Look how high that pitch was! Most hitters who swing at a pitch up there come up empty — there’s a reason elevated fastballs are such a popular strikeout pitch — but Witt is not most hitters. He not only make contact with a pitch that was almost literally at eye level, he was able to drive it to the pull field for extra bases. Impressive.
Also impressive: Witt’s play at third base. The natural shortstop is playing third in deference to Adalberto Mondesi, and earlier in Thursday’s game he stole a base hit from Andrés Giménez with a slick sliding play. He starred on both sides of the ball.
Witt, 21, was the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft. His father, Bobby Sr., pitched 16 seasons in the big leagues with seven teams from 1986-2001. Our R.J. Anderson ranked Bobby Jr. the No. 2 prospect in baseball last month. His write-up:
Witt was selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft, making this the second time he’s finished a step behind Rutschman. That’s no knock on him, however, as he’s a high-grade prospect in his own right. He proved as much by hitting .290/.361/.575 with 33 home runs and 35 doubles across Double- and Triple-A in his first full professional season. There used to be fear that Witt would swing-and-miss too frequently to maximize his loud offensive tools; those concerns haven’t materialized, and he struck out in just 22.5 percent of his Triple-A plate appearances. Factor in an above-average glove, and Witt should accomplish something his father never did over the course of his 16-year big-league career as a pitcher: make an All-Star Game.
The Royals have been an outlier in recent years because he haven’t manipulated the service time of their top prospects, and Witt is no exception. They could have easily sent him to Triple-A to begin the season — all it takes is 15 days in the minors to push a player’s free agency back one year — but didn’t, and he rewarded them with a win on Opening Day.