Just How Good is Bobby Witt Jr.?
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
If you've seen any highlight from Spring Training this week, I guess that it was probably Bobby Witt Jr.'s 484-foot home run off Oakland A's pitcher Yusmeiro Petit. It'd be understandable, at least, as the video of the home run has been plastered on just about every website from MLB.com to ESPN.com. And because of that, many new fans have become more acquainted with Bobby, or least, they now know he exists.
And that's a great thing because Bobby Witt Jr. isn't just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill prospect, he's one of baseball's best. As of writing, the 20-year-old sits seventh on MLB.com's annual Top 100 prospects list, two spots higher than previous Long Story Sport subject Ke'Bryan Hayes. Additionally, he is also the second highest rated shortstop on that same list, behind only Wander Franco.
According to multiple scouts from around the game, Witt Jr. is a budding "five-tool player", meaning that he holds just about every attribute that you'd want in your team's superstar. The five components that make up a five-tool player include:
Hitting for contact, which manifests itself in having a high batting average
Hitting for power, including home runs and other extra base hits
Showcasing strong speed, especially on the base paths
Displaying a strong glove and ability to reach for balls that others can't
And showing off an accurate throwing arm at his position
Some high profile stars who have also earned the title of "five-tool player" include legends of the game Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mike Trout. While this isn't surefire proof that Bobby is destined for Cooperstown, it is an indication that he has all the tools necessary to turn some heads, as he did this week.
If there's anything that would deter me from calling Bobby a sure thing right now, it would be that he has almost zero experience playing in a professional setting, let alone the minor leagues. Since being drafted in June of 2019, he's appeared in 37 games at Rookie Ball level and that's it. During his brief run in Rookie Ball, he finished with a .262/.317/.354 slash line, one home run, and nine stolen bases. While those aren't the most eye-popping stats and are not indicative of the lofty praise he's been receiving, I wouldn't put to much stock into those numbers.
That's because he was playing at the Rookie Ball Level, which so happens to be the lowest rung on the minor league ladder. That is to say that Witt Jr. wasn't playing against opposition that could adequately match his own ability. We've seen this first hand over the past weeks, where he's played way better against top tier opposition. Through his first eight games in the Cactus League this Spring, he's slashing .353/.389/.706 and has two home runs, including his blast off 13-year pro Petit.
Nevertheless, those 37 games are the only official game time we have for Bobby so far, as we don't count Spring Training. And that is just way too small a sample size to reach any sort of conclusion. While it must be said that officials at the Royals' alternative training camp were reportedly impressed with his progression in 2020, we don't have much tangible evidence to sink our teeth into right now. It would be unfair to Bobby and Royals' fans to simply say he'll be a star without sufficient evidence.
Luckily, we won't need to worry about that for much longer. While we will almost certainly not see him suit up for the Royals in 2021, I'd expect him to debut this season at the Single A level, and could possibly make the jump up to Double A given he surpasses any expectations he's given. And while we shouldn't hedge our bets too high, I wouldn't be surprised if he's given his first opportunity in the majors in 2022, where I expect he'll be viewed as a potential Rookie of the Year finalist.
As with all of these prospect showcases, nothing is set in stone. While it may seem that Bobby Witt Jr. has all the intangibles to be a star player in the future, his lack of game time in professional ball does cause me to pause for a moment. Nevertheless, his intangibles do excite me. There are few prospects in baseball right now who intrigue me as much as the 20-year-old, and I'm eager to see how he continues to develop.
Featured Image - The Athletic
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