Kansas City Royals

Royals grab Texas prep Bobby Witt Jr. No. 2 overall and add UF infielder, ASU pitcher

The Royals selected the top high schooler in the country and a player rated the top shortstop prospect in decades when they drafted Colleyville Heritage High’s Bobby Witt Jr. with the No. 2 overall pick Monday night.

The Baltimore Orioles selected Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman first overall.

The Royals later selected University of Florida shortstop Brady McConnell in the second round (No. 44 overall), and Arizona State right-handed pitcher Alec Marsh No. 70 overall (competitive balance round B).

Witt Jr., who has already graduated from high school, is in the middle of the state playoffs in Texas. He’ll turn 19 on June 14. He’s the son of former major-league pitcher Bobby Witt Sr.

Witt Sr., whom the Texas Rangers drafted No. 3 overall in 1985 out of the University of Oklahoma, pitched for 16 years in the majors and started 397 games (430 total appearances).

“It’s an amazing family. We’ve been following him and knowing him, really, since he was 14 years old,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “It’s been a joy to scout him. It’s been an absolute honor and privilege to follow him and his career. It’s a great celebration in this organization today because we were able to select him. We knew a little over a year ago that this was a player that we were going to target. To see this day come has been very, very special for all of us.”

While Witt Jr. has been highly touted for his ability as a shortstop, Moore said there’s “no doubt” Witt Jr. could play anywhere on the field. He described him as a “special athlete” and lauded him for his poise on the field.

Asked about what made Witt capable of carrying the label of the No. 2 overall pick, Moore said, “The fact that he played on the biggest stage his peer group has to offer. He’s a gold medalist. He’s played in all the All-American games. He’s grown up in a baseball family. He went out this year and earned a spot in the draft based on how he performed.

“We had a scout, and sometimes several scouts, at every game he played. We literally saw every inning he played. We saw him in workouts, as well. We saw him in preseason scrimmages. Lonnie Goldberg and our scouting staff did an amazing job.”

A resident of Colleyville, Texas, the 6-foot, 180-pound Witt Jr. was recently selected as the 2018-19 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year. A right-handed hitter, he went into last weekend with a .515 batting average with 15 home runs, 15 doubles, eight triples and 54 RBIs. He also had a .579 on-base percentage and 17 stolen bases.

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In 2018, Witt won the High School Home Run Derby at the MLB All-Star Game as well as MVP honors at the Under Armour All-America Game, the States Play Series and the U18 Pan American Championships.

Baseball America and Perfect Game ranked Witt Jr., who signed to play college baseball for Oklahoma, as the top prep prospect in the nation.

Witt Jr. is viewed as a five-tool player. MLB.com, citing a survey of several scouts, rated Witt Jr. as the second-best shortstop prospect ever behind Alex Rodriguez and ahead of Chipper Jones.

During a conference call with reporters, Witt Jr. said he and his father shed tears of joy after the selection was announced.

“They were there at every game, no matter what,” Witt Jr. said of the Royals. “Forty-degree weather, 90-degree weather, rain delays, they were there through thick and thin. Knowing that they were always there, I felt the most comfortable with those guys. Whenever I needed a text to Chad Lee, the area guy, or whatever it was, I felt almost like family to them, and them to me, as well.”

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While Witt Jr. has never been to Kansas City, he said he’s heard great things about the town, the stadium, the fans and — of course — the barbecue.

Witt Jr. and his Colleyville Heritage team will play in the Texas state high school semifinals Thursday. USA Today ranked Colleyville Heritage No. 6 in the country in its latest national prep poll.

The Royals went pitching-heavy in last year’s draft, using their first five picks on college pitchers in Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic and Jonathan Bowlan.

The Royals’ top-five picks in the past 15 years include outfielder Chris Lubanski (fifth, 2003), third baseman Alex Gordon (second, 2005), Luke Hochevar (first, 2006), shortstop Mike Moustakas (second, 2007), first baseman Eric Hosmer (third, 2008), shortstop Christian Colon (fourth, 2010), outfielder Bubba Starling (fifth, 2011) and pitcher Kyle Zimmer (fifth, 2012).

A 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-handed hitter, McConnell was teammates with Singer and Kowar at Florida. Coming out of Merritt Island High School in Florida in 2017, McConnell was rated the 39th-best prospect by Baseball America but wasn’t selected until the 33rd round by the Cincinnati Reds. As a sophomore at Florida this season, he led the team in home runs (15), total bases (132) and slugging percentage (.576). He also ranked second in batting average (.332) and RBIs (48).

A 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior at Arizona State, Marsh played prep baseball in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At ASU, he went from making just one start and pitching 21 innings in 11 appearances as a freshman to the team’s Friday night starter this past season.

Marsh went 9-4 with one complete game in 17 appearances this season (16 starts). He struck out 99 batters in 101 1/3 innings and walked 36. Opposing hitters batted .244 against him. Baseball America rated him No. 97 prospect in the draft.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.