The Royals are reassigning top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. to the minor leagues, report Ken Rosenthal and Alec Lewis of the Athletic (Twitter link). He is likely to start the season at Double-A, per Jeff Passan of ESPN (via Twitter).
That’s hardly a surprise, given that Witt has yet to play a single game above rookie ball since being drafted out of high school in 2019. Some speculation had arisen that Witt could be a major league option right out of the gate after the 20-year-old impressed during spring training. General manager Dayton Moore even left that door open earlier this week, but a minor-league assignment always seemed the most likely outcome.
With Adalberto Mondesi entrenched at shortstop, any chance Witt had at making the team likely involved moving him (or Mondesi) to second base. Instead, it seems Kansas City will turn to Nicky Lopez and/or non-roster invitee Hanser Alberto at the keystone.
Witt, the second overall pick in that 2019 draft, is universally regarded by public prospect evaluators as a top thirty farmhand in the sport. He draws plenty of praise for his power and defensive ability. If Witt performs well in the minors, he might more realistically emerge as a big league option later in the year. By demoting Witt, the Royals also ensure he won’t accrue a full year of MLB service time in 2021, keeping him under team control through at least 2027. In this case, though, there’s a rather justifiable on-field argument for keeping Witt off the MLB roster on Opening Day.