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2019 MLB Draft (This Guy Could Join the White Sox Tonight): Bobby Witt Jr.

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Will the Colleyville Heritage H.S. SS fall to the Sox with the third pick in this year’s draft?

No stranger to awards: Witt, Jr. hoists the MVP trophy for the 18U USA National Team in the Pan-American Games after hitting .576, with three homers.
@BwittJr

Yep, believe it or not, there’s a scenario running around that has the Baltimore Orioles opting for a different No. 1 (due to true preference, or under-slot signing to open up money throughout the rest of the draft), like Andrew Vaughn. While the Kansas City Royals are said to be ga-ga over Bobby Witt Jr., who knows, maybe they’re only ga-ga because there has been no realistic scenario where Adley Rutschman falls to them. So there’s a slight chance that Bobby Witt Jr. is available to the White Sox at No. 3.

What follows is the writeup published very early in the Draft Prospects You Should Know series, with this cheeky little bump that acknowledges, hey, it could happen.


Bobby Witt, Jr.

Colleyville Heritage H.S. (Colleyville, Tex.)
Shortstop
Age 18
Bats Right
Throws Right

Rankings

Baseball America 3
MLB 2
FanGraphs 4

If the name Bobby Witt sounds familiar, it should. He won 142 games over a 16-year career that included stints with the Rangers, A’s, Marlins, Cardinals, Indians, and Diamondbacks. His son, with the same name, has the potential to have an even longer and better career than his dad.

Witt’s name has been bandied about for the last couple years as a potential first pick in this year’s draft, with good reason. Over the past two years for his high school squad, Witt has hit 18 homers and 93 RBIs. How has he done in international competition? All he did was hit .576 with three doubles, three triples, three homers, and 18 RBIs over nine Pan-American Games in Panama last October and November —ultimately winning the MVP Award for the 18U USA National Team. Witt has also played in a variety of other tournaments and events, winning last year’s High School Home Run Derby at Nationals Park.

So what’s so special about Witt? His speed is top-notch, as he runs the 60-yard-dash in a rapid 6.40 seconds according to PerfectGame. He has outstanding defensive tools in the infield and has proven equally adept at all the infield positions, although there’s no reason he couldn’t stay at shortstop for the next 10 or more years; he also has very soft and quick hands. Witt also has plus arm strength (mid-90s fastball per MLB) with the ability to throw from all angles. I’ve already documented his power, but did I forget to say he hit 26 homers at Nationals Park in the first round of that home run derby? The only potential flaw in his game may be his swing-and-miss tendencies as he occasionally gets too middle/opposite-field oriented in games and lose his leverage and raw bat speed. However, that’s not a bad problem to have, and concerns may have been assuaged during the most recent offseason tournaments.

Some of the worry surrounding Witt’s hitting tool could simply be a matter of prospect fatigue — when someone’s rated as highly as Witt and he becomes perhaps overexposed in offseason tournaments, scouts may get especially nit-picky in looking for faults. To some degree, this caused the decline last year in shortstop prospects Brice Turang and Nander De Sedas. With that said, Witt actually possesses more tools than either of those players. These are his grades according to MLB: 60 field, arm, and run; 55 power; 50 hit. In actuality, those grades are all on the conservative side, as I’d assess him as 50 hit, 70 power, and 65 field, arm and run.

Here are Witt’s prep numbers this year through June 2. Of course, take these numbers for a grain of salt, as they aren’t against the strongest of competition:

52 G, 157 PA, 129 AB, .496/.573/1.093, 14 2B, 9 3B, 15 HR, 55 RBIs, 25 BB, 11 K, 17 SB, 1 E

Witt (6´1´´, 185 pounds) isn’t especially imposing, but he makes the most of his build. He’s got a lightning-quick stroke and doesn’t mind taking the ball the other way. Of course there’ll be concern that as Witt ages, he may end up outgrowing shortstop. One can make the same case of every nearly prep player, however, so this is hardly a concern. Witt has got the arm and plus footwork to play any position. Witt is verbally committed to the Oklahoma Sooners.

Many experts have Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman as the top pick in this year’s draft. Most top draft sites subsequently have Witt pegged to be selected by the Kansas City Royals with the second overall pick. If he should somehow fall to third overall, the Sox should pounce on him immediately — even over the likes of C.J. Abrams, due to Witt’s defensive polish (.989 fielding percentage). Most scouts concede that Witt has the highest upside of any player in the draft. The White Sox haven’t chosen prep athletes in the first round since the infamous 2012 draft when Courtney Hawkins and Keon Barnum were selected. Could this year be the year?

Here’s a video of Witt at the Perfect Game National Showcase last year, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

Here’s a YouTube video of his homer at the UnderArmour Game in Wrigley Field last July: