The Kansas City Royals hung a whopping 12 runs on their bitter rivals in a huge win on Saturday, including four RBIs coming from a Kyle Isbel grand slam. Somehow, neither that nor the club's victory over the Detroit Tigers was the story of the night. Deservedly so, rookie Bobby Witt Jr. stole the show by accomplishing yet another impressive feat in a 2022 season already filled with them.
By clobbering a third-inning home run, Witt became just the fifth player in Royals history to record a 20-20 season (at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases). In fact, he was the first rookie in franchise history to do so and just the fifth rookie ever to do it since the milestone was tracked.
Of all MLB players this year, Witt is the fourth-fastest to reach the mark, joining fellow rookie Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners, Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers and Marcus Semien, another Rangers standout. Witt paces that field in swiped bags despite having the lowest OBP of the group, which is a testament to his innate feel for elite baserunning and his high-level athleticism. After Saturday's game, Royals manager Mike Matheny praised Witt and said this very well could be the last time he's in the 20-20 club (but for a good reason):
"I'm guessing it might be the last one you see because it'll be 30s after this," Matheny said. "That's the kind of player he is. He's special. Just to put up the numbers, but [also] how he goes about his business day in and day out. Watching these guys celebrate for him, realizing how unique it is what we're watching. The kind of season he's putting together, it's special."
Before the 2022 campaign even began, Witt was crowned as a savior of sorts for the Royals. As a former No. 2 overall draft pick, his prospect profile has always been put under an intense microscope. Although his rookie year has been far from perfect and is also getting overshadowed a bit by the greatness of the aforementioned Rodriguez on a potentially playoff-bound team, what Witt is doing in Kansas City isn't normal. His blend of speed, instincts and power gives him a very high floor as a clear cornerstone piece for the Royals moving forward. His room for improvement in areas such as defense and plate discipline gives him one of the highest ceilings in all of baseball as a cornerstone piece for the sport itself.
Last year, across 123 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Witt launched 33 home runs and was just one stolen base away from joining the very exclusive 30-30 club. He proved to be too advanced for minor-league pitching, which is what led to him having a productive stint in spring training and ultimately making the Royals' Opening Day roster to begin 2022. He's flashed this ability before, and pitcher Jonathan Heasley has been there to witness it. Saturday's starter said after the win that the sky is the limit for Witt.
"I saw him do some crazy stuff in the minors — he almost got to 30-30 there — so to see him do this is not a surprise to me," Heasley said. "And I think it's just a glimpse of what's to come. He's a special talent, and I think he's only going to get better, so he's just fun to watch."
Per the Royals and Elias, Saturday night's game was the first time in MLB history that four rookies hit a home run for the same team in the same game. Kansas City's quartet of Witt, Isbel Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez fueled a big win for a club that was on a three-game losing streak. Sunday's rubber match opens the door for a series victory and if Witt has anything to do with it, he'll continue to play winning baseball and bring the best combination of youth, talent and upside en route to a win.