Witt Jr. sent down, to open ’21 in Minors

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Royals star prospect Bobby Witt Jr. will not be on the Opening Day roster in Kansas City.

The team hasn’t officially sent Witt down, but he will begin to get more work on the backfields at the Royals Spring Training complex with the Minor League players there instead of starting Cactus League games. General manager Dayton Moore discussed the decision on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City on Monday.

“It was one of the more challenging decisions we’ve had to make here,” Moore said. “I just didn’t think it was fair to him to try and break him into the Majors at a position [second base] that he’s been working at continuously for two weeks or so.”

Witt is Kansas City’s top prospect and the No. 7 overall prospect in baseball. He’s only 20 years old, but he’s been turning heads in Spring Training, and Moore had recently said he was “open-minded” about Witt making the Opening Day roster.

In 14 games this spring, Witt is batting .289 and slugging .526 with three home runs. The Royals’ shortstop of the future even hit a monster 484-foot homer. Witt has mostly played second base when he’s started games with the Royals, although he hasn’t played a Cactus League game since Thursday.

Even before the Royals said they were being open-minded about Witt breaking camp with the big league club, the likeliest place for Witt to start the season has been Double-A, where he could play shortstop, second base and possibly even center field. The No. 2 overall Draft pick in 2019, Witt has yet to play a Minor League season above rookie ball and has played only 37 professional games in the Royals system — hitting .262 with one home run in 2019 — despite making significant strides at the alternate training site last year.

Witt, the son of former big league pitcher Bobby Witt, will still likely make his Major League debut in 2021. The most reasonable spot for him to play in Kansas City, barring any injury, will be second base, with shortstop Adalberto Mondesi as an everyday staple in the lineup. The Royals have expressed confidence in Nicky Lopez to start the season at second base to see if the 25-year-old can click at the plate.

If the Royals need to make a change, utility man Hanser Alberto is available to play second, as is Whit Merrifield. But the Royals won’t hesitate to promote Witt when he shows that he’s ready.