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Bobby Witt, Jr. to begin season in the minors

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The phenom won’t be on the Opening Day roster

Kansas City Royals v Seattle Mariners Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The Royals have demoted infielder Bobby Witt, Jr. to the minors, according to reports from Ken Rosenthal and Alec Lewis. The 2019 first-round pick has only played in 37 professional games, but impressed coaches and players at workouts last summer, and held his own in spring training this year. The 20-year old hit .289/.325/.526 with three home runs in 40 plate appearances, including a mammoth 484-foot blast.

Dayton Moore had said he was “open-minded” to having Witt on the Opening Day roster, but having him start the year in the minors shouldn’t be totally unexpected as it has been over 40 years since a high school draftee made the big leagues with the amount of minor league experience that Witt has. But his quick progress is a testament both to his maturity and the development by Royals personnel at the Alternate Site last year. This should not be read as the Royals manipulating service time, a practice they have generally avoided. Witt could be promoted to the big leagues by mid-April to delay a year of free agency, or in late May to avoid Super-two arbitration status. Witt will likely report to the Alternate Site at Arvest Ballpark in Northwest Arkansas, and could be assigned to a club when minor league play begins in May.

The demotion likely means that Nicky Lopez will begin the year as the Opening Day second baseman, with Hanser Alberto to spell him against left-handers. Lopez was a finalist for the Gold Glove Award last year, but has struggled offensively, hitting .228/.279/.307 in 594 plate appearances.