Bobby Witt Jr. leads three Kansas City Royals in Baseball America top prospect rankings

·3 min read

Kansas City Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield already playfully nicknamed Bobby Witt Jr. “The Franchise.” Following Witt’s first full season in the minors, Kansas City Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore dubbed the young standout thought to be a future star “the real deal, on the field, off the field.”

On Wednesday, the industry’s leading publication, Baseball America, ranked Witt third among professional baseball prospects heading into the 2022 season.

Baltimore Orioles switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, garnered the top ranking. The former Oregon State star who turns 24 next month, spent 2021 playing at Double-A and Triple-A. Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, 21, ranked second after an outstanding season playing at High-A and Double-A.

Three of the Royals’ best minor-league players made Baseball America’s Top 100 list. Catcher MJ Melendez, who led Minor League Baseball with 41 home runs, ranked No. 42, while first baseman and 2017 first-round draft pick Nick Pratto ranked No. 43.

Earlier this offseason, Baseball America ranked left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy ahead of Melendez and Pratto on their Royals top prospects list. Lacy is not on the Top 100.

Witt, who will turn 22 in June, already graced the cover of the Baseball America’s October edition after having been named the Minor League Player of the Year for 2021. He also earned USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year honor.

The Royals selected Witt with the second overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas. He was the national high school player of the year and one of the top-rated high school shortstop prospects to enter the draft in decades.

Witt, who hadn’t played above the Rookie level of the minors prior to this past season, had a tremendously successful season at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season.

He slashed .290/.361/.575 with 33 home runs, 35 doubles, 29 stolen bases and 97 RBIs in 123 games (61 at Double-A, 62 at Triple-A). Baseball America dubbed him the “Best Athlete” in the Royals farm system.

A rainout of a game in progress in the final week of the minor-league season wiped out a stolen base that would have made him the third minor-league player with at least 30 steals, 30 doubles and 30 home runs in a season since 1990 (Luis Robert in 2019, Grant Desme in 2009).

Witt, who is not currently on the Royals’ 40-man roster, figures to make a strong case to make the Opening Day roster out of spring training this season.

The Royals will have to figure out how to navigate a potential infield logjam with Merrifield coming off an All-Star season at second base and having been one of the top defensive players at that position as well as Nicky Lopez turning in his best season in the majors while playing shortstop on a daily basis along with dynamic five-tool phenom shortstop Adalberto Mondesi looking to bounce back from an injury-marred 2021 season.

A highly touted shortstop, Witt could break into the majors at third base in order to get on the field and get his bat in the lineup.

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