KANSAS CITY, MO. (September 24, 2021) – The Kansas City Royals announced today that shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. has been honored with the George Brett Hitter of the Year Award, given to the top position player in the Royals organization, and right-handed pitcher Jackson Kowar has won the Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year Award, which is given to the top pitcher in the organization.
Both Witt Jr. and Kowar will be presented with their awards prior to the Royals’ game against the Minnesota Twins next Friday (Oct. 1) at Kauffman Stadium. The Player and Pitcher of the Year awards for each minor league affiliate will be announced at a later date.
Witt Jr., 21, split the 2021 season between Northwest Arkansas (AA) and Omaha (AAA), and through 117 overall games, he leads all minor league players with 71 extra-base hits, while he ranks second in RBI (94) and total bases (279), third in home runs (32) and fourth in runs scored (95). In June, he was selected to the MLB All-Star Futures Game roster, and on July 11, he was the starting shortstop and batted leadoff for the American League at Coors Field. Just one week later, on July 18, he was promoted to Omaha, and at the time of his promotion, led all Double-A players in total bases (139), while also leading the Central in RBI (51) and tying for the division lead in runs (44). He was second in the division in hits (72) and home runs (16). He was named the Triple-A East Player of the Week for Aug. 2-8, as he went 8-for-27 (.296) with two doubles, four home runs, 11 RBI and eight runs scored in a six-game span. He finished the month in similar fashion, claiming Triple-A East Player of the Month for August. On Aug. 14, he stole his 20th base of the season to become the first Royals minor leaguer to record 20-or-more home runs and 20-or-more stolen bases in a single season since Alex Gordon in 2006 with the Double-A Wichita Wranglers. Witt Jr. was selected by the Royals in the first round (2nd overall) of the 2019 First-Year Player Draft out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas.
Kowar, 24, had two stints with Triple-A Omaha this season, and in 17 overall appearances (16 starts), went 9-4 with a 3.46 ERA (31 ER in 80.2 IP) and 115 strikeouts (12.8 K/9), which are the fifth most strikeouts among all Triple-A pitchers this season, despite spending the month of September in the Major Leagues. The right hander opened the season with Omaha and went 5-0 with a 0.85 ERA (3 ER in 31.2 IP) and a .165 opponents’ average (18-for-109) in six starts before having his contract selected by Kansas City on June 6. He was tabbed as the Storm Chasers’ Opening Day starter on May 4 and tossed 5.1 shutout innings against St. Paul in his Triple-A debut. Kowar was named the Triple-A East Pitcher of the Month for May, after going 5-0 with a 1.01 ERA (3 ER in 26.2 IP) in five starts. In the month, he allowed just 17 hits and struck out 36 batters, while holding opponents to a .183 batting average. He made his Major League debut on June 6 at Angel Stadium. At the time his contract was selected by the Royals, his 0.85 ERA led all Triple-A pitchers and ranked third among all minor league pitchers, while his five wins were tied with four others for the minor league lead. Following his debut, the right hander made two more appearances with the Royals before returning to Omaha on June 23, where he remained until his most recent recall on Sept. 1. He was selected by the Royals in the first round (33rd overall) of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Florida.