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Despite His Flaws, Bobby Witt Jr. Looks the Part for the Royals

Witt is showing flashes of the potential the Royals banked on when they drafted him in 2019.

Bobby Witt Jr. has had his ups and downs this season, as most rookies do, but he has recently been one of the better players on the Kansas City Royals. After his first month of struggles, he has shown that he's capable of making adjustments at the plate. With that in mind, let's look at his production so far — starting with the negative first.

So far, Witt's slash line is .244/.285/.446 with an OPS of .731, which is pretty good for a rookie. It would be a lot better if he could get on base more often, which is one of the few issues with him this season. Currently, Witt has the 12th-lowest walk rate in the league at 5%.

May 28, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt (7) hits his third double of the game against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Another issue is that Witt has been slightly below average when it comes to Whiff%. He is currently 63rd on the Baseball Savant leaderboards at 26.4%. This is slightly concerning, but it very well could be where he is for his whole career. His chase rate is also mildly concerning, as he's also in the lower percentile (10th) at 35.8%. This is due to Witt's aggressive approach, so he needs to be slightly more patient at the plate.

The interesting element in regards to Witt this year is what pitches he can and can't hit. Typically, rookies who come into the majors tend to have issues hitting offspeed and breaking balls while being able to hit the fastball. Witt is the exact opposite so far this season, being able to hit curves, sliders, and changeups well but struggling against fastballs.

Witt is hitting fastballs at a .223 rate with a .364 SLG, and that simply isn't great early on. To compare, his batting average and SLG against offspeed pitches are .274 and .534, respectively. Run values back this up, as he has a minus-2 run value on sinkers and a concerning minus-4 run value on four-seam fastballs. Not being able to hit the fastball will inevitably lead to a slump for Witt; he's seeing 60% fastballs in his at-bats. Now that the negatives are out of the way, let's get into the pluses.

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While negatives come with it, there are also advantages to having an aggressive approach. One is that Witt flat-out crushes pitches. He is 30th in the league with an average exit velocity of 91.2 mph, and he is about average in barrel rate at 8.3%. Another fun stat to look at is max exit velocity, where Witt Jr. is in the 92nd percentile at 113.7 mph. He's also hitting the ball hard 44% of the time, which is above the MLB average.

May 9, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (7) stands with manager Mike Matheny (22) int the dugout during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Witt's batted ball profile is similar to another Royals player: Salvador Perez. Remember when I said that Hunter Dozier was starting to be a Perez clone with his batted ball profile? Baseball Savant has Witt's batted ball profile as the third-most similar to that of Perez. Why is that good?

With Witt's speed, top in the league at 30.4 ft/s, hitting 40.5% grounders could lead to a lot of hits that wouldn't qualify as such for other players. The line-drive rate is low, but that could change with how he hits the ball. Some other key stats for Witt are his 104 wRC+, .205 ISO and 1.5 WAR. His bat may be developing, but Witt has been a great defender and baserunner for the Royals.

2022's BsR (baserunning runs above average) for Witt is 1.5, which is above average and it could get to the 6-8 range as the season goes on. His defense has also been pretty good so far, as he's posted 2 Outs Above Average and has shown that he can make great defensive plays while showing off his arm and range.

It's only year one for Witt, and he has shown the potential that the Royals banked on when they drafted him second overall back in 2019. He just turned 22 and has a lot of time to improve on the negative elements of his play. With a year of development, Kansas City could see him be an All-Star selection for years to come. As a result, the pressure is on the Royals to become competitive with him playing well.