Top Royals rookie Bobby Witt, Jr. will begin the 2021 season playing for the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, according to Alec Lewis of The Athletic. The 20-year old is currently at the Alternate Site there, playing games against other minor leaguers in preparation for the season. The Naturals open the season May 4 in North Little Rock against the Arkansas Travelers. The home opener at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale is May 11 against Tulsa. You can find the complete Naturals schedule here.
The Royals have typically let top prospects spend their last season of minor league ball at Double-A with either a quick stop at Triple-A or letting them jump to the big leagues. Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo explained the thinking to Lewis last week.
The thing about Double-A is, it gives him more of a chance to build the foundations he hasn’t had a chance to build, just being a rookie-ball player a couple of years ago. So that part of it makes us feel like Double-A makes sense. The other part of it is if he’s in line, is he better off being in Triple-A, facing veteran arms?
But if you go back in time, especially looking at the special guys, a lot of them have been called up from Double-A. And the fact he’s gotten so much experience in big-league camp, I don’t think it’d be a big deal to call him up if we thought he was ready.
Witt’s only professional experience in regular season games consists of 37 games for the Arizona Summer League team in 2019 in which he hit just .262/.317/.354 with one home run. But he impressed at the Alternate Site last summer and was a big hit in spring training, holding his own against Major League and upper minor league pitchers, hitting .289/.325/.526 with three home runs in 14 games.
“He’s definitely a left-side guy,” Picollo said. “He’s a big kid. Six-foot-two, 205 pounds. He’s not built like your typical second baseman. If he had to go over there, we now know that he can, but we certainly see him more on the left side.”
The Naturals could have a very loaded roster this year, with first baseman Nick Pratto, outfielder Seuly Matias, catcher M.J. Melendez, and pitchers Asa Lacy, Austin Cox, and Jonathan Bowlan possibilities to begin the season there. Picollo told Lewis that top pitching prospects Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar will likely begin the season in Triple-A.