Heading into 2021 Spring Training, few would have expected Bobby Witt Jr. to impress to the point that General Manager Dayton Moore would be considering Witt to break camp with the big league club. After being selected 2nd overall in the 1st round of the 2019 Draft, he was assigned to the Royals’ Arizona Rookie League team. The natural progression would lead one to figure that Witt would get a taste of A ball while climbing the ladder, providing Royals fans dream-worthy material of the talent they hope to see at Kauffman Stadium for the next decade. The Royals ended that dream, for now, by reassigning him to Minor League camp.
Prior to the reassignment, GM Dayton Moore went on record to say he was open-minded about the possibility of allowing Witt to showcase his immense talent as soon as Opening Day, April 1st. His comments came as the buzz surrounding Royals camp was reaching a feverish pitch. Over the course of 40 plate appearances across 14 games, Witt produced a batting line of .289/.325/526 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI. The 2 walks to 10 strikeouts may have given the front office some pause, but he was simply, downright impressive. The performance wasn’t entirely unexpected, however, as Witt opened some eyes by holding his own at the alternate site during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) March 15, 2021
Instead, Witt is likely to open the season at AA Northwest Arkansas. He is expected to see some time at second base and third base, as the Royals seem to be sticking with speedster Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop. The elephant in the room is service time manipulation, and while the Royals won’t directly say it, service time certainly played a role in their decision-making. Hopefully, for the sake of the players and for the fans, this will be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement that takes effect in the 2022 season.
I would expect the Royals will look to see how their established 2B, Nicky Lopez, does for the first 6 to 8 weeks of the season. If he performs adequately, Witt will need to have an impressive start to the minor league season to force the Royals’ hand into moving Lopez to the bench and inserting Witt at the keystone. An injury to Hunter Dozier could also prompt Witt to get the call.
Speaking of impressive starts, Witt is one of those big name prospects who have seen a huge rise in his hobby value, in part due to his torrid Spring Training. He along with Wander Franco, Jasson Dominguez, Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Marco Luciano and Spencer Torkelson, are probably the players with the highest valued 1st Bowman prospects cards right now. It’s a seller’s market for Witt right now, and if you’re buying, expect to overpay. Witt’s first Bowman cards showed up at this time last year in 2020 Bowman 1st Edition, and then continued in their flagship release 2020 Bowman. Surprisingly out of nowhere, in a box that was sitting sealed for the last year, @CardGuyMike on Twitter just opened his box and pulled the Witt 1st Edition holy grail, a foil 1/1! (pictured above)
If you’re looking to catch Witt in AA, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals begin play on May 4th at the Arkansas Travelers. The Royals, meanwhile, open up the ’21 season on April 1st at home vs. the Texas Rangers.