Witt’s overall numbers were not overly impressive in the Arizona Rookie League -- a .670 OPS with one home run, 27 RBIs and nine stolen bases. But Royals officials were impressed virtually with every Witt movement.
“He is advanced beyond his years,” Royals vice president/assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “He was tremendous defensively, was a great teammate, had a great understanding of the game. And his work ethic is off the charts -- always the first guy to the field, the last guy to leave.”
Witt and second-round pick Brady McConnell, also a shortstop, likely will both start at Class A Lexington next year. McConnell is expected to play some third base, second base and outfield on the days that Witt is at shortstop.
“We’ll find at-bats for them,” Picollo said. “We’ll make it work every day.”
MLB.com sat down with Witt last week at the team’s complex in Surprise:
MLB.com: Just take us through your first year of pro ball.
Witt: It was awesome, just getting to know all of the coaches and my teammates. It was an unbelievable experience. Can’t wait for what’s next.
MLB.com: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make?
Witt: Really, it’s just about getting into the right routine, like when you get up, when you get to the field, what you do before the game, after the game. You have to make sure your body is well-rested, that you’re eating right. And getting to know your teammates is really important, whether they are from another state or from the Dominican [Republic]. That’s just very important to me, creating a good bond with them and having a good relationship with them.
MLB.com: So, are you learning Spanish?
Witt: I’m trying. I’m getting there. I’m learning what I need to know to communicate for now and it’ll get better.
MLB.com: On the field, what were the biggest adjustments?
Witt: Every day you see velo. And you see curveballs with high spin rates. You just have to be ready for the fastball at any moment. It’s just you against the pitcher. Go out and have fun.
MLB.com: How difficult was that, seeing better pitching?
Witt: It’s more reaction now than in high school. Everyone is throwing 95 (mph) here. Everyone has a good breaker. So, you really have to be ready and compete each pitch. It’s a battle between you and the pitcher. You have to be ready for everything.
MLB.com: Your numbers weren’t great in a small sample size. Did that jolt your confidence?
Witt: It was a little bit of a jump. But I never lacked in confidence. I knew it was just a matter of getting my feet wet. I knew it would be challenging.
MLB.com: Did you learn anything specific from the struggles?
Witt: Just being consistent. Throwing consistently to first base, being consistent with the double play, trying to hit line drives every at bat. There’s a physical side and a mental side, and you need to be able to build off all your tools and show those tools. Everyone here is good. You have to show what you can do that might be better.
MLB.com: Like all teams, the Royals have a lot of data for you to absorb. That has to be a big jump from high school as well.
Witt: There’s a lot more data with Trackman and Rapsodo, and even in the weight room there are devices to let you know if your arms are fatigued or legs are fatigued. It’s awesome to have that stuff.
MLB.com: As a hitter, did you see value in Rapsodo?
Witt: It shows your exit velocity and it shows if you mishit it a little and the ball is fading. You know that anyway but it’s nice to see the numbers.
MLB.com: One piece of data that would be nice to have that we really don’t yet is bat speed, which like in golf, can tell you how much damage you can do. Would you like to know your bat speed?
Witt: We have these devices that show bat speed I think -- they’re hooked to the end of the knob -- but I don’t know what my speed is.
MLB.com: Were your parents able to see you as a professional player?
Witt: (Smiling) Yes, they came down twice to see me. And it was awesome. They thought it was awesome to see me play pro ball. I was really excited to see them here.
MLB.com: What’s next?
Witt: I’ll be here until the end of October. Then I’ll have a little rest, and then get back into the weight room. I really haven’t spent a lot of time in the weight room and that’s very necessary for this level. I worked out in high school, but not like this. I want to put on some muscle weight, upper and lower body, but I still want to stay athletic. I’m at 190 now and maybe get up to 195, but that’s about it for now. I came out here at 179 and I’ve already put about 10 or so pounds on and it feels good.