The Royals hold the second-overall pick for this June’s draft, and will make their earliest selection since they took Mike Moustakas second in the 2007 draft. The pick has a chance to greatly improve a farm system devoid of much high-upside talent.
There is much amateur baseball to be played between now and June, so draft positions can change greatly (Brady Singer was considered to be the top selection at this time last year), but Baseball America has already released its first 2019 Mock Draft. With the first selection, they have the Orioles taking Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman. The switch-hitting junior hit .408/.505/.628 with nine home runs in 67 games for the Beavers last year.
With the second overall pick, they have the Royals taking Texas high school infielder Bobby Witt, Jr. So let’s learn more about the young prep star.
The name should be familiar to some long-time baseball fans. His dad, Bobby Witt, Sr., was the third overall pick by the Rangers in 1985 out of the University of Oklahoma, and went on to win 142 games in a 16-year career with the Rangers, Athletics, Marlins, Cardinals, Devil Rays, Indians, and Diamondbacks. The younger Witt is a shortstop, described by Baseball America as a five-tool talent with plus skills both offensively and defensively.
How high Witt Jr. goes in the draft next spring will depend on the conviction that scouts have in his hit tool, as evaluators have questions about the amount of swing-and-miss in his game after his performance this summer. Still, he hit massive home runs at multiple events this summer against top competition and routinely impacts the game defensively thanks to his elite hands, quick footwork and the ability to throw on the run and from multiple arm slots.
MLB Pipeline also ranks Witt as the second-best prospect in the draft, although they also note the same concern about his whiffs. But Witt is young, and could make improvement, and they write he “shows good barrel control and some willingness to use the entire field, so he could hit for average if he modifies his aggressive approach.”
Even if he never becomes a high-average hitter, his power is very impressive for an infielder at the high school level. He won the High School Home Run Derby at Nationals Park last July during All-Star week. He does not have a huge frame, standing at just over six-feet tall, but has a nice fluid swing and barrels up well, reminding me a bit of Carlos Correa. He has topped over 100 mph in his exit velocity and the ball does seem to jump off his bat. He does seem to drift onto his front foot a bit, but has the strength to make that work, hitting a home run one-handed at the home run derby in Washington.
MLB Pipeline has his speed as 60 grade and suggests he could be a 20 home run/20 stolen base threat as a big leaguer. He ran a 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds in St. Petersburg last year, one of the fastest players at the workout.
His defense is described by 2080 Baseball as being “fundamentally sound” with solid arm strength. In fact, he has been clocked with a fastball in the low 90s on the mound.
Witt has grown up around the game of baseball, an experience that seemed to help the maturation of the young star across the parking lot. He is described as a good student with good make up and mental toughness.
“They say ‘five-tool player,’ but I just try to have maybe six tools,” Witt Jr. said. “(I want to) have that mindset in the way I go out and play the game.”
Witt will turn 19 just after the draft, so he is not particularly young for his class and he is committed to Oklahoma. The Orioles recenlty hired his uncle, Doug Witt, as a scout.
Baseball America has talked to scouts who think the overall depth of the 2019 draft is not looking great so far. But Rutschman and Witt seem to stand heads and tails above the class, at least initially. Luckily, the Royals will have a chance to grab one of them.