Witt, prospects display dazzling defense

July 11th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Call it the best defensive play made in Royals’ Summer Camp so far, and it just happened to involve three prospects who could be giving Kansas City fans tremendous thrills in the fairly near future.

Late in Saturday’s intrasquad game at Kauffman Stadium, shortstop Jeison Guzman, the team’s No. 17 prospect per MLB Pipeline, blistered a one-hopper toward the hole at short.

Bobby Witt Jr., the Royals’ No. 1 prospect and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, ranged to his right, made a spectacular back-handed stab, spun back around in a 360-degree move and unleashed a rocket throw to first base.

Witt’s heater skipped in toward first baseman Nick Pratto, the Royals’ top pick in the 2017 Draft and their No. 12 prospect. Pratto perfectly timed a sweeping one-hop scoop, reminiscent of former Royals Gold Glover Eric Hosmer.

Guzman was out by an eyelash.

“That was a plus-plus defensive play on both ends,” manager Mike Matheny said, nodding his head in approval. “Both guys are so confident defensively. Bobby makes a lot of natural moves that [don't] look that hard, but he makes difficult plays look easy.

“First chance we’ve had to get an extended look at Nick Pratto, and you can see he really wants to make plays at first base. And there really aren’t a lot of first basemen in the league you can say that about. He wants to make an impact defensively.”

Witt shrugged his shoulders a little as he tried to describe the play.

“Those plays are just reaction,” Witt said. “You don’t really get to practice ones like that.

“And Nick really picked me up. It’s great to play with these guys -- you know they have your back.”

It may be a good thing, too, that Witt and Pratto continue to become familiar with each other -- they could be making plays like that together at the big league level sooner than either might think.

“I’ve been able to hang around Nick, get to know him and become good friends,” Witt said. “He’s taken me under his wing. He was kind of in the same spot as me a couple of years ago, a high school kid picked high [in the Draft].”

Witt, who just turned 20 in June, is not here to crack the 30-man roster. He is here to gain knowledge in what essentially is his first big league camp.

“It’s been incredible,” Witt said. “It’s been an absolute blast. It’s truly an honor being out here practicing with everyone, being at Kauffman Stadium and working out with all the big league guys.

“I’m just here to learn. I’m trying to learn as much as possible, like just listening to Whit [Merrifield] telling me, ‘OK, watch for this on this at-bat’ or ‘Watch this from this hitter.’ Just little things. Just playing behind [Adalberto Mondesi] and watching him do what he does.

“My biggest thing is to just calm down and not be so antsy.”

Asked how Witt was doing so far in camp, Matheny said straight-faced, “Yeah, he’s doing OK.”

Matheny, who has been raving about Witt, then smiled and said, “We’re just trying to watch and enjoy him.”