When might he debut?
After what can only be assumed to be much deliberation among Kansas City Royals front office and staff, it seems that top prospect Bobby Witt, Jr. will be heading to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to kick off the 2021 minor league season.
Just a month ago, discussion swirled around the possibility that Witt would break camp with the big league team. Though he did not, the question still looms: when might Witt debut with the Royals?
Until Witt’s minor league station was revealed, such thinking was rather nebulous and not particularly helpful. But now that we know where Witt is going to be, we can take a look at what might happen with him.
So, let’s discuss four Witt debut scenarios, and try to guess when he’ll end up in Royals blue.
Witt Channels His Inner Starling
- Probability: low
- MLB Debut Date: 2023 or later
First up: the nightmare scenario. This doesn’t seem likely considering what we know about Witt, but it is certainly a reasonable possibility. The fact of the matter is that most first round picks don’t ever become above average players, let alone stars. Kansas City’s last hyped, toolsy high school hitter taken with a top-five pick—Bubba Starling—eventually made his debut on a 100-loss team, but never lived up to the hopes (perhaps unfairly) hoisted upon him.
Now, we know that Witt’s initial 37-game run in rookie ball in 2019 was underwhelming. Witt hit .262/.317/.354 in 180 plate appearances, with an ISO south of .100 and a wRC+ of only 85 even though his BABIP was a healthy .323. If that line is more indicative of his real talent level, that’s a problem.
In this scenario, Witt struggles in Double-A all year. After making some adjustments in the offseason, he earns himself a promotion to Triple-A in 2022, only to struggle there, also. Witt probably debuts with the big league club at some point, as his defense, baserunning, and upside will prove to make him an intriguing utility man at least.
It’s Hot Witt Summer, Baby!
- Probability: moderate
- MLB Debut Date: June 2021
June 20th marks the start of summer, and it could also mark the start of Witt Season in Kansas City. Just like there’s a reasonable chance that Witt struggles mightily this year, there’s a reasonable chance that Witt simply tears the cover off the ball from day one. This scenario is really easy to picture: Witt dominated Double-A early and, combined with perhaps an injury to someone on the big league club, gets promoted to fill in.
Alternatively, Witt crushes Double-A pitching, and is then promoted to Triple-A, where he continues to terrorize pitchers and finally earns a trip to the big leagues. Either way, it’s really hard to see Witt make his big league debut before June; the minor league season starts in May, after all.
Post-All-Star Break Fun Times
- Probability: high
- MLB Debut Date: August 2021
I think this scenario is the most likely one. That’s because of two reasons. Reason one, which should be obvious, is that the Royals want Witt on their team. You can read between those lines every time a front office member, coach, or even Royals player talks about Witt. Reason two is that this scenario allows for that, while also allowing for Witt some time to acclimate to Double-A pitching.
Look: Witt is probably not going to destroy pitchers right from the get-go. And that’s ok. In this scenario, Witt takes a few weeks to gather his bearings and get on a roll, and then either a few months to build up a case for promotion in Double-A or simply force his way to Triple-A and then force his way to the big leagues from there.
Bumps In The Road
- Probability: high
- MLB Debut Date: 2022
The upper minors are hard. They are the crucible that separates the eventual big leaguers from the career minor leaguers. Witt might make his debut this year, but there’s also a high probability that he doesn’t, instead doing so next year. Remember, Witt is young—he turns 21 this June—and even top prospects can take a couple of years’ worth of seasoning in the minors.
The other reason why this scenario is likely is because it is the least demanding. For the first scenario to occur, Witt has to be really bad. For the second and third ones to happen, Witt has to be really good. But what if Witt is just sort of…underwhelming? Just ok? Holding his own, but not making a case to be a big leaguer right this very second? There are a wide range of performance possibilities for that to be the case.