On Tuesday the Royals made official what most observers expected, adding Bobby Witt Jr. to the Opening Day roster. The 2021 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year will make his Major League debut on Thursday against the Cleveland Guardians. Jon Heyman had reported last weekend that Witt would make the club. Witt is expected to start at third base for the Royals. He would need to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full, but no corresponding roster move has yet been announced.
Bobby Witt Jr. was called in Mike Matheny’s office. He found Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi and Salvador Perez waiting to welcome him to the big leagues.— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) April 5, 2022
“Tears came to my eyes,” the Royals 3B said. #Royals
Witt was the second overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Colleyville High School in Texas. Last year was his first full season in the minors, and he destroyed the upper levels, hitting .290/.361/.576 with 33 home runs and 29 steals in 124 games across Double-A and Triple-A. Witt is a five-tool player with a quick bat, plus power, blazing speed, and strong defense. MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus both ranked him as the #1 prospect in the game.
Bobby Witt Jr. on what he thinks it’ll be like to run out to third base on Thursday at The K: pic.twitter.com/ZmHBqOhpst— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) April 5, 2022
Some teams may have tried to game the service time of a player like Witt, calling him a few weeks into the season to push back his free agency. The Royals have traditionally not been a team to play service time games, and there is less incentive to do so under the new labor deal. If Witt were to finish in the top two of Rookie of the Year voting, he would get a full year of service time regardless of when the Royals called him up. Evan Dreilich of The Athletic also explains that the Royals can get a draft pick by adding Witt to the Opening Day roster if he does well.
Players with 60 days of service or less, who have rookie eligibility and are included in two or more of the preseason top-100 prospect lists put out by Baseball America, MLB.com or ESPN, are eligible. If, in the time before they hit salary arbitration, those players go on to win Rookie of the Year, finish top three in MVP voting or top three in Cy Young voting, their team gets an amateur draft pick following the end of the first round.
Witt is one of several top prospects that have made Opening Day rosters joining Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers, Julio Rodriguez of the Mariners, and Hunter Greene of the Reds.
The Bobby Witt Jr. era starts now! What are your expectations for his rookie season?