'I want it pretty bad': Witt Jr. eyes 30-30-30

No. 1 prospect named Royals George Brett Minor League Hitter of the Year

October 3rd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- swapped his Storm Chasers jersey for a navy blazer on Friday night and traveled south from Iowa, where Triple-A Omaha is ending its season, to Kauffman Stadium, where he was honored by the Royals as the George Brett Minor League Hitter of the Year.

The Royals' top prospect admitted, though, that he would have rather been in a jersey. He has two games to settle some unfinished business.

"I’m focused on these next two games I got," Witt Jr. said. "Try to win … maybe get a stolen base."

On Thursday, he stole what would have been his 30th base of the season, but rain suspended and subsequently cancelled the game following three innings of play. It won’t be made up, so all statistics accrued have been wiped out. Witt Jr. now has two more games' worth of opportunities to steal No. 30 and officially become the seventh player in the past 20 years to post a 30-home run, 30-double, 30-steal season.

The 21-year-old shortstop is hitting .293 with 33 homers, 35 doubles and 29 stolen bases through 121 Minor League games this year.

"I want it pretty bad," Witt Jr. said, cracking a grin. "I've got to get on base first."

Before president of baseball operations Dayton Moore and general manager J.J. Picollo presented Witt Jr. and Jackson Kowar, who was named the Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year, with their awards, Witt Jr. visited the Royals' clubhouse. Then he took in the game from a suite with his family after talking to reporters about his season.

"It’s been incredible," Witt Jr. said. "I’ve learned a lot just about myself, not only on the field but off the field. How to get myself in good routines and how to get my body right to play each and every day."

Witt Jr. was named MLB Pipeline’s position prospect of the year for the Royals because of his all-encompassing offensive ability. Kansas City wanted him to get a full year of playing time under his belt after only playing 37 games as a rookie in 2019 and not having a Minor League season in 2020.

That’s exactly what he’s done, and as a result he’s set himself up to move forward in 2022.

"As good of a spring as he had, there were still a lot of unanswered questions," Royals manager Mike Matheny said. "As confident as he looked, there were still things I think he needed to prove to himself. … He handled himself perfectly this spring, represented himself well, played really well. I think everybody around here, and the fans, saw enough to be really excited."

Witt Jr. began the season at the alternate training site before joining Double-A. He had a slow start, displaying swing-and-miss tendencies. But things started to click in June and he took off from there. The biggest adjustment was more mental than physical, as well as with his approach.

"I tried to make it as simple as possible," Witt Jr. said. "Go out there and hunt my pitch. If I get it, swing at it. If I don’t, take the walks when I can. Put balls in play, hit them hard. That’s what I tried to do all season. Get ready and be on time."

Witt Jr. was selected to the Futures Game with teammate and Royals No. 3 prospect, Nick Pratto. Then, the two of them were promoted to Triple-A, where they continued their damage display.

Catcher and No. 4 prospect MJ Melendez joined them soon after. The three of them combined have hit 109 homers entering Saturday’s penultimate game of the season.

Witt Jr. was quick to name-drop his teammates when asked what winning the George Brett Award means to him.

"It’s unbelievable," Witt Jr. said. "Seeing George Brett’s name on it and then seeing all the other guys in our organization and what they did -- MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, the list goes on and on. I wish everyone could be on that award. It’s truly an honor."

Witt Jr. will head into what he described as a “big” offseason, preparing for an even more impactful 2022, when he’s expected to make his Major League debut.

But Witt Jr. isn’t focused on when his time will come, only that he’s prepared when it does.

"I just have to keep doing what I’m doing," Witt Jr. said. "I could watch their games, look at the box score, say, ‘I should try to do this or this.’ But no, I just have to keep doing me. Trust the guys that are above me. So just go out there, have fun, trust them. And go be ready to perform and try to win."