2019 Draft Preview: Bobby Witt Jr.

School: Colleyville Heritage H.S. (Texas)
Position: SS
Height/Weight: 6’1”/185
B/T: R/R
Date of Birth: June 14, 2000
Previously Drafted: Never

Scouting Reports

As every Game of Thrones fan knows bloodlines are important. With so many highborn players on MLB’s top prospect list, it appears that Major League Baseball agrees. The list of sons’ of former big league players will be a little longer in early June as Bobby Witt Jr. is projected to go near the top of the draft. He will join Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr./., Bo Bichette and current major leaguer Dwight Smith Jr. as the offspring of players with promising futures.

Bobby Witt threw heat for 16 seasons, most of them with the Texas Rangers. He went as the third overall pick out of Oklahoma in the 1985 draft. Like his father, Bobby Witt Jr. is also committed to Oklahoma, it’s questionable whether or not he’ll make good on that commitment as the majority of mock drafts have the Kansas City Royals taking him with the second pick. According to Fangraphs, the slot bonus for the second pick in this years’ draft is in the neighborhood of $8 million making college an unlikely choice.

As a five tool middle infielder, it’s easy to see why he is so highly regarded. Here is the scouting report from Baseball America

Bobby Witt Jr. has an expansive toolset that includes plus power, speed, arm strength and defensive ability at shortstop. How high Witt Jr. goes in the draft next spring will depend on the conviction that scouts have in his hit tool, as evaluators have questions about the amount of swing-and-miss in his game after his performance this summer. Still, he hit massive home runs at multiple events this summer against top competition and routinely impacts the game defensively thanks to his elite hands, quick footwork and the ability to throw on the run and from multiple arm slots.

Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo spoke to our Mike Rankin as part of the FutureSox podcast on May 12 adding these comments

“Bobby Witt Jr. has the highest upside in the entire draft. I think a number of scouts would agree. He’s got the most tools of any player in this draft. He plays a very good shortstop right now. He can play any position on the field except for catcher. He pitches for his high school team and hits the mid 90s although he’s not a pitching prospect at the MLB level.”

MLB Pipeline’s assessment is in lockstep with that of Baseball America.

Bobby Witt Jr. is the consensus top prep prospect available. He performed well at several prominent 2018 events, winning the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game and claiming MVP honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, the States Play Series and the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in Panama.

A rare potential five-tool shortstop, Witt didn’t always make consistent contact on the showcase circuit last summer but scouts aren’t worried about his bat. The right-handed hitter shows good barrel control and some willingness to use the entire field, so he could hit for average if he modifies his aggressive approach. His raw power and speed are both plus tools, which, combined with his baserunning instincts, could make him a 20-20 player.

Witt covers plenty of ground at shortstop, has quick hands and possesses the arm strength to make all the necessary throws — as well as pump mid-90s fastballs from the mound. His love for the game is evident, and scouts praise his makeup as much as his physical ability. He’ll turn 19 shortly after the 2019 Draft, making him old for his class and sophomore-eligible in ’21 in the unlikely event he follows through on his commitment to Oklahoma.

Here’s more on him from ESPN’s Keith Law

Witt is a gifted athlete who certainly shows three of the five tools and very good instincts on both sides of the ball. His swing is simple and direct, and he shows excellent hand strength for hard contact. His load and setup are fine, but his swing gets long, and he collapses his back side on nearly every swing. There might be power here from his strength and swing path, but he’ll swing and miss quite a bit with that kind of finish, and he can be vulnerable in several ways to pitchers with decent off-speed stuff.

In the field, however, he is smooth and definitely projects to stay at shortstop with a plus arm, good range to his left and soft hands. He also is a plus runner, and he seemed to steal bases at will against a weak opponent, even with lefties on the mound the entire game.

Scouting grades

Per MLB Pipeline

Hit: 50
Power: 55
Run: 60
Arm: 60
Field: 60
Overall: 60

Prospect Overview and Future Outlook

As a five-tool shortstop with a family history of MLB success, it’s easy to see why Witt Jr. is projected to be taken so high in the draft. Already a solid defender at a premium position, the only open question about his ability appears to be his hit tool. This is a common affliction for younger players and is often overlooked when things like speed, defense, and power are visible to offset it.

Sadly, it doesn’t appear he’ll be an option for the White Sox, as experts across the board agree Kansas City is going to snare him with the second pick. If he is available at number three, the White Sox philosophy has been to take college bats with high contact rates that play the middle of the diamond. Despite that conviction, there is evidence that the White Sox may be reconsidering that philosophy as several mock drafts have them taking Blessed Trinity Catholic High School shortstop C.J. Abrams at number three. This may be a positive development as there is evidence to suggest that High School players with tons of upside are a better route. Our James Fox examined the issue earlier this year.

Last year the first high schooler taken was Jarred Kelenic at number 6. He was traded from the Mets to Seattle in the offseason and is currently lighting up the SAL league with a .969 OPS, furthering the case that taking prep players pays off. Given all the positives, it’s doubtful the White Sox would pass on Witt Jr. if he were available, but it’s more likely he’ll be on the opposing side of the diamond 19 times a year for the next decade or two.

Need to see for yourself, here’s a couple of videos of Bobby Witt Jr. in action.

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Filed under: Draft Coverage

Tags: Bobby Witt JR

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