The best moments of Bobby Witt Jr.'s career

April 6th, 2022

Bobby Witt Jr. has arrived in the Majors.

Royals fans have been waiting for this day to come, though they haven’t had to wait long since MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect only entered pro ball in June 2019 when Kansas City selected him second overall.

While this will be the beginning of his journey in the Major Leagues, it is far from Witt’s first step in the game. Growing up around the diamond with a father who spent 16 seasons in the Majors himself, Witt has created several memorable moments in baseball both as a pro and an amateur.

Here are some of his biggest, ahead of the biggest of them all to this point in his Major League debut:

2018 High School Home Run Derby in Washington
Everyone involved in Witt’s development has high hopes of seeing the infielder make multiple trips to All-Star Games in the future. Truth be told, it won’t be the first time the right-handed slugger has experienced the Midsummer Classic. Witt participated in the 2018 High School Home Run Derby at Nationals Park ahead of that year’s All-Star Game and stole the show in his own way. He clubbed 26 homers over 4 1/2 minutes in the opening round to advance to the final against now-Reds prospect Rece Hinds. Playing on the same night as the Major League Home Run Derby, Witt defeated Hinds, 8-7, and still had 14 seconds to spare on the 90-second clock. It’s the type of plus power that made him the top high-school prospect in the Class of 2019 and the type of pop he’d show off in another later in the same week. 

Under Armour All-America Game MVP
The Derby final was held on July 16. Four days later, Witt played in Chicago’s Wrigley Field for another showcase event -- one that featured prominent prospects Riley Greene, CJ Abrams, Anthony Volpe, Corbin Carroll, Quinn Priester and Daniel Espino among others. It looked like it could have been a quiet day for the shortstop, who batted third in the American lineup, as he walked twice and was hit by a pitch through his first three plate appearances. But things got loud in the ninth when Witt lifted a homer to deep left. He was named MVP for his ability to reach in four of his five plate appearances, and he drove in three of his team’s runs in the American side’s 8-2 win.

2018 Pan-Am Games
Given what he had already shown in showcases the previous summer and for many years back home in Texas, Witt was an easy selection for Team USA’s 18U squad that competed in the Pan-American Championships down in Panama in November and December of 2018. He very much lived up to the hype on the international scene, going 19-for-33 (.576) with three homers in nine games with Team USA that winter. He kept his best performance for last as he went 4-for-5 while hitting for the cycle in the USA’s 17-2 drubbing of Panama in the gold-medal game.

2019 Gatorade National Player of the Year
If you think the summer of 2018 looked busy for Witt, wait until you get a hold of what happened the following year. After his national and international experience, Witt was no match for local ball either back home with Colleyville Heritage High School. He hit .500/.575/1.095 with 15 home runs in the spring, thus only adding to his hype. Before both the Draft and the state finals, Gatorade named the shortstop its National Player of the Year in May, putting him on the same list as MacKenzie Gore, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Rodriguez among other honorees before him.

The 2019 Draft
Witt’s high school season wasn’t even technically done yet when the 2019 Draft came. He was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 Draft prospect behind only Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman because of his true five-tool potential at a vital position. Indeed, the Royals came calling at No. 2 -- a fairly easy call after Rutschman went first overall to the Orioles -- and instantly made him their top prospect. The two sides eventually agreed to a $7,789,900 signing bonus, full slot for the No. 2 overall pick and the third-largest-ever bonus by the end of 2019. But before that happened, there was one last piece of business to take care of back home.

State title
The Royals announced Witt’s signing on June 12. Four days earlier, he captured a Texas 5A state title with his teammates at Colleyville Heritage High School. The Panthers defeated Georgetown, 14-2, and it was such a drubbing that the run rule had to be enforced after only six innings. Colleyville Heritage racked up 18 hits in win to nab its first-ever state title, giving Witt one final fantastic memory before officially going pro.

Memorable Arizona League debut
The Royals moved quickly to get Witt his first professional at-bats and assigned him to the Rookie-level Arizona League for his Minor League debut on June 30. The 19-year-old looked like he belonged right away, going 3-for-6 with an RBI and a stolen base as the DH in a 9-5 win over the AZL Cubs 1.

First pro homer
While Witt’s time in the AZL got off to a strong start, the season as a whole was a challenging one. Witt posted impressive exit velocities in his first taste of the pros but struggled to find consistent results in a small sample and finished the summer hitting .262/.317/.354 in 37 games, far cries from the numbers he posted everywhere previously in his baseball life. He did manage one homer -- a first-inning blast in the 30th game of his career on Aug. 15 against AZL Indians Red. Witt also added a triple in that 2-for-5 showing and oddly finished the season with more three-baggers (five) than doubles (two).

Move to alternate site
The coronavirus pandemic robbed Witt of a chance to play in his first full season in 2020, but the Royals didn’t want the first-rounder to go without any competitive at-bats under their watch. Instead, Kansas City was bold in sending the then-20-year-old to its alternate training site, allowing him to compete against upper-level pitchers from within the organization. Alt-site reports indicated that Witt wasn’t overmatched and fit right in against the older competition, and he carried that right into fall instructs where he faced more age-appropriate arms.

484-foot homer in spring
Following his time at the alt site, Witt made for an easy non-roster invite to Royals’ Spring Training in Arizona, and again, he looked like he very much fit in despite any professional experience above Rookie ball. That was especially true on March 8, when he launched a homer to left-center against the A’s that went an estimated 484 feet -- well over the crowd seated on the berm at Surprise Stadium. Unfortunately, that game didn’t feature Statcast. If it had, the blast would have been the longest homer measured by Statcast this spring, beating out a 472-foot homer by C.J. Cron on March 25. Witt hit .289/325/.526 and finished with three homers in 14 Cactus League games before he was reassigned to Minor League camp.

Three-homer game on May 30
Following Witt’s strong spring, the Royals had several internal debates on where to send their top prospect. Double-A or Triple-A? They settled on the former considering his age and lack of actual Minor League experience, and that seemed like a fine move as Witt took some time to find his legs with Northwest Arkansas. He entered May 30 with just a .209/.289/.360 slash line and four homers in his first 21 games with the Naturals. Then, he absolutely went off in that May 30 contest at home, blasting three homers for his first career multihomer game in the Minors. All three were solo shots but played big roles in helping push Northwest Arkansas to a 12-2 over San Antonio -- a notable opponent given that the Missions boasted a fellow top shortstop prospect in CJ Abrams. Witt’s OPS jumped from .649 to .792 in that one game alone. It has not dipped below .770 at any level since.

The home run that wasn’t
This is meant to be a list of Witt highlights, but we couldn’t let a list of Witt moments go by without some mention of this maybe, maybe-not blooper. On June 8, Witt launched a no-doubt blast over the lawn seats in left-center at Frisco’s Riders Field. It was meant to be his second homer of the game -- that is until he got to the plate. In coming home, Witt looked like he may have skipped right over the dish, though he did drag his back foot in an attempt to make contact. The RoughRiders appealed anyways, and home plate umpire Chris Presley-Murphy -- who was right on top of the play -- subsequently called Witt out. The play caught the eye of Royals minority owner (and Chiefs quarterback) Patrick Mahomes and started a Zapruder-like study all over social media. Witt himself said he touched the plate with the toe drag. It went into the books as a triple anyways, Witt’s first of the year. A triple that traveled 400-plus feet.

Perfect night at the plate on June 26
In case there was any doubt that Witt was heating up in June, he put that to rest altogether on June 26 in a home game against team rival Arkansas. Witt doubled in the first inning, hit a three-run homer in the second, singled in the fourth and added another RBI base hit in the eighth to go 4-for-4 in a 9-5 win. The only plate appearance he didn’t reach base in was a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. The four hits and five RBIs remain career highs for Witt in his young and budding career.

An impressive opening at Triple-A
By late July, the Royals had seen enough. Witt had hit .295/.369/.570 with 16 homers in 61 games to begin his age-21 season at Double-A. It was time for him to see Triple-A Omaha at last. The shortstop made his Storm Chasers debut on July 20 and went 2-for-6 as the starting shortstop and No. 2 hitter. That began a run of four straight multi-hit games to begin Witt’s time at the Minors’ highest level. That streak also included his first Triple-A homer that was actually of the inside-the-park variety in his second game against St. Paul on July 21. Over the four-game span, Witt opened 10-for-21 (.476) with the homer and a double. He would cool down eventually but not by much.

The 30-30 that wasn’t
There have been only four 30-30 seasons in the Minor Leagues since 2010. Witt came oh so close to achieving the fifth. He entered a Sept. 30 game at Iowa with 33 homers and 29 steals on the season and actually picked up the threshold-breaking 30th theft in the third inning. And then came the rain. The game was washed out, suspended and then completely canceled, meaning the stolen base wasn’t official. Between that and the phantom homer from earlier in the season, we won’t stop you if you want to think of Witt finishing his first full season with 34 homers and 30 steals, plus some asterisks.

The call
Following the lifting of the lockout, it became clearer and clearer as the spring wore on that the Royals were keeping the third-base job open for Witt to claim for his own. He did not disappoint. The 21-year-old has brought his traditional power and speed to the table in the Cactus League, wowing fans and scouts alike with another strong spring. His defense has been solid at the hot corner, and he has more than enough arm for the position. That forced the hands of Dayton Moore, Mike Matheny and other Royals decision-makers to make Witt Kansas City’s Opening Day third baseman. And now we wait for that next big moment: his first time on the field as a bona fide Major Leaguer.