Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Witt Jr.: The best SS in the Draft since A-Rod?

@JimCallisMLB
May 27, 2019

The No. 3 overall choice in a loaded 1985 Draft, Bobby Witt won a World Series ring and 142 games in a 16-year big league career. Yet he's about to get relegated to the second-highest pick in his family, and scouts believe he'll eventually be known as the second-best player

The No. 3 overall choice in a loaded 1985 Draft, Bobby Witt won a World Series ring and 142 games in a 16-year big league career. Yet he's about to get relegated to the second-highest pick in his family, and scouts believe he'll eventually be known as the second-best player among the Witts.

It will be a surprise if the Royals don't take Bobby Witt Jr. with the No. 2 selection on June 3, after the Orioles take catcher Adley Rutschman out of Oregon State. And it may be a bigger shock if Witt doesn't become a perennial All-Star.

"Bobby is so talented that he can do what he wants," an area scout with a National League team said. "And in my two decades of scouting, he may love baseball more than any kid I've ever seen."

Witt is among the rarest of talents, a potential five-tool shortstop. He could have plus tools across the board, hitting for average and power, displaying plus speed and arm strength (his fastball reaches the mid-90s when he pitches) and making all the plays at shortstop.

There's no question that Witt is the best shortstop prospect in a 2019 Draft full of first-round candidates at the position. He also compares favorably to the best since MLB switched to a single unified Draft in 1987. We surveyed several veteran scouts, and the consensus was that only one shortstop in the last 32 years ranks ahead of Witt.

"Alex Rodriguez is the best shortstop prospect I've seen, but Bobby Witt Jr. certainly belongs right up there," a longtime scout now with a NL club said. "He can match up with guys toolswise and what he also has is a high baseball IQ. People lose sight of it because the tools are so strong, but he's a really good player to go with it."

Rodriguez and Witt top our ranking of the best shortstop prospects since 1987 (based on evaluations at the time of their Draft, not how their careers played out):

1. Alex Rodriguez, Westminster Christian Academy, Miami (No. 1 overall, 1993)
He can claim the top spot in just about any historical prospect ranking -- amateur shortstops, No. 1 overall picks, Minor League prospects.

2. Bobby Witt Jr., Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS (2019)
The Witts will surpass the Grieves (Tom went No. 6 in 1968, Ben No. 2 in 1994) as the highest-drafted father-son combination ever.

3. Chipper Jones, The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla. (No. 1 overall, 1990)
Though overshadowed in 1990 by Todd Van Poppel, he was a worthy No. 1 overall choice as a switch-hitting shortstop with power and speed.

4. Manny Machado, Brito Miami Private School, Miami (No. 3 overall, 2010)
His tools and Miami roots made A-Rod comparisons inevitable.

5. Justin Upton, Great Bridge HS, Chesapeake, Va. (No. 1 overall, 2005)
Scouts identified him as a leading candidate to go No. 1 in 2005 when he was a rising high school sophomore three years earlier, and he never buckled under the weight of those expectations.

6. B.J. Upton, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va. (No. 2 overall, 2002)
The highest-drafted brothers ever, the Uptons both reached the big leagues at age 19 and moved to the outfield early in their careers.

7. Derek Jeter, Central HS, Kalamazoo, Mich. (No. 6 overall, 1992)
The Astros narrowed down the candidates for 1992's No. 1 overall pick to Jeter and Phil Nevin, then took Nevin for financial reasons -- prompting their Michigan area scout, Hall of Famer pitcher Hal Newhouser, to quit immediately.

8. Tim Beckham, Griffin (Ga.) HS (No. 1 overall, 2008)
Supposed to fit in the mold of the Uptons and Jeter, he never showed the athleticism as a pro he did as an amateur, and it took him until 2017 to earn regular playing time in the Majors.

9. Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt (No. 1 overall, 2015)
The only college player on this list, he was the first of three shortstops taken atop the 2015 Draft, followed by Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers.

10. Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Gurabo, P.R. (No. 1 overall, 2012)
He soared up boards as he wowed clubs in workouts leading up to the Draft, earning some A-Rod and Jeter comparisons along the way.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.