Bobby Witt, Jr. came into spring training this year the #1 prospect in the organization and one of the top prospects in the game. He wowed teammates and coaches with his play during spring training and there was even talk he could make the team out of spring training.
But the former first-round pick had only 38 games of professional baseball under his belt, leaving many questions on how he would respond to the grind of a full professional season. He was assigned to Double-A - fairly aggressive for a then-20-year old - and the first week of action he had some struggles.
Since that first week, he has passed every test with flying colors. Witt dominated Double-A, was named to the Futures Game, and was promoted to Triple-A Omaha in late July. Across both levels he has played in 85 games, hitting .292/.365/.575 with 24 home runs and 20 steals with highlight-reel plays on defense. There were some concerns he might have trouble making contact in his first full professional season, but his 23.2 percent strikeout rate is right around league average in each of the two leagues he has played in this year.
How much longer will Bobby Witt, Jr. stay in the minors before the Royals finally call him up? Under Dayton Moore, they have traditionally not had their top prospects spend much time in Triple-A, reasoning that the competition there is not terribly useful for a top prospect since the league is full of fringe Major League pitching and up until this year, required their top affiliate in Omaha to play numerous games in hitter-friendly environments in the west. Bobby Witt, Jr. has played in 24 games for Triple-A Omaha as of this date, more than some Royals players spent at the top minor league level.
Recent top Royals prospects games played at AAA before making their MLB debut
|Billy Butler, 2007
|Eric Hosmer, 2011
|Mike Moustakas, 2010-2011
|Salvador Perez, 2011
|Adalberto Mondesi, 2016
|Bobby Witt, Jr., 2021
*-so far! Table also counts Mondesi’s regular season promotion in 2016 as his big league debut rather than his 2015 World Series appearance.
Complicating matters this year is that September rosters are limited to just 28 this year. As Lynn Worthy pointed out in an article last week, the Royals may not have the opportunities to give a player like Witt this September. As Assistant GM J.J. Picollo put it, “the restriction on the number of players that can come up is way more impactful than people realize.” Dayton Moore suggested that the two extra callups would likely be a catcher and pitcher to give other players more rest.
Of course, the Royals could open roster spots by cutting some dead weight. Hanser Alberto should not be an impediment to getting Bobby Witt, Jr. on a roster. But another complication could be the 40-man roster. Witt is not on the 40-man roster, and doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster this year to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. The Royals would likely rather keep that 40-man roster spot available for another player this off-season, to keep their inventory. David Lesky recently looked at some of the players they may want to protect. The Royals do have a lot of players they can cut from the roster, but it has generally not been Dayton Moore’s modus operandi to add guys to the 40-man roster before he has to.
Then there is service time. The Royals don’t generally manipulate service time the way other clubs do - they had Brady Singer make last year’s roster in the first week, brought up Eric Hosmer ahead of the Super-Two arbitration deadline, and had Alex Gordon on the Opening Day roster when he was a rookie. All of those moves likely cost the team millions, but they put the player’s development ahead of fiscal concerns.
But with Witt there is a lot of uncertainty as to how service time will be a factor in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
JJ Piccolo admits on “Cody and Gold” on @610SportsKC that the Royals are cognizant that a new CBA could affect service time for guys like BWJ if he debuts this year and it can factor into the org’s decisions.— Royals Farm Report (@RoyalsFarm) August 13, 2021
It is hard to imagine that things will be drastically different under the new CBA, but perhaps the Royals are concerned that a looming work stoppage could throw a wrench into any plans to call up Witt. Why call him up when it will likely be a lost season due to a player’s strike? Why not let him develop in the minors before adding him to the union ranks on the picket line? In any case, it is interesting the Piccolo is citing the CBA as a factor in when Witt may be called up.
Royals fans are chomping at the bit for a chance to see what may be the most dynamic prospect in club history. He is doing everything he can to show he is very close to ready. But there are some factors that may keep him in the minors a bit longer.
When do you think Bobby Witt, Jr. will make his Major League debut?
This poll is closed
Opening Day, 2022
Sometime after May in 2022