Bobby Witt Jr. Has Carried the Royals to Their Fast Start

The Royals have emerged as one of the top storylines of the 2024 season. Bobby Witt Jr. has carried the team, as a true superstar should.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 9: Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Kauffman Stadium on April 9, 2024 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

Few teams were more active during the 2023-2024 MLB offseason than the Kansas City Royals. Not only did the club swing some minor trades and land some notable free agents, but they locked up star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to a long-term contract extension.

In February, the Royals locked Witt up to an 11-year extension that could turn into a 14-year deal if all three club options get exercised. In total, we’re looking at $377M if all options are picked up.

For the Royals, this deal could ultimately end up being a steal. They’re paying a player more money than they’re accustomed to, but Witt is already making good on the organization’s committment.

Kicking off the 2024 season, the Royals are 12-7, just half a game behind the first-place Guardians in the AL Central. The Royals have an underdog feeling to them that’s reminiscent of the 2015 squad that small-balled their way to the World Series.

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A Red-Hot Start Carried by Bobby Witt Jr.

Most of the strong start Kansas City is enjoying is because of Witt and his production.

Through 19 games, Witt has 13 extra-base hits and an AL-leading 18 runs scored. He’s got four homes and eight driven in with a .321 batting average, .997 OPS and 183 OPS+. Any time you have a Savant page with as much red as this, you know something is going right.

Adding to Witt’s overall value is his astounding play on defense. According to Baseball-Reference, he leads the major leagues in Defensive Wins Above Replacement, or dWAR, with a 0.6 mark. That 96th percentile OAA and 89th Arm Strength is a major added bonus over the ridiculously solid offensive output he’s managed as well.

In Witt, the Royals have a true superstar-type talent on their roster. He is a legitimate contender for the AL MVP Award, especially if he’s able to singlehandedly carry the team to a record that far outperforms pre-season expectations.

Last year, Witt emerged as a true top-tier talent of the game. He led the AL in triples, drove in 96 and finished one stolen base shy of a 30-50 season, which would’ve been just the fourth time in MLB history that feat has ever been achieved.

Early on in the current campaign, it seems that he’s only getting better, which should be a scary thought for the competition. The Royals seem to have made the perfect decision in locking him up long-term, because he’s only just getting started in his reign over the league.

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Where Does Witt Rank Amongst Other Shortstops in the League?

You don’t even have to look at the numbers to guess where he’s at compared to his fellow shortstops. Aside from Mookie Betts, there are few who come even close to Witt when it comes to pure talent and the stats to back that up.

StatShortstop rankings (min. 10 games played)

When it comes to stats like RBI, Witt currently ranks behind the likes of Jose Caballero, Orlando Arcia and Ezequiel Tovar. It will not take long for him to overtake them on the leaderboards.

Royals Capitalizing On a Wide-Open AL Central

Entering the season, it felt like the Central would come down to the Guardians and Twins with the Tigers as a potential wild card team. Instead, the Twins have struggled mightily and it’s the Royals who have emerged as the top threat to Cleveland.

As of right now, the Royals are being given a 33.6% chance to win the division, which is a heck of a lot higher than it was prior to the season. The Guardians are at 37% and the Twins at 38%, but those numbers are going to change rapidly as the Royals continue their surge towards the top.

What makes the Royals even better is the fact that it’s not only Witt who’s performing on offense. Salvador Perez has a .324 average and 169 OPS+ to begin the year, while Vinnie Pasquantino, MJ Melendez and Nelson Velazquez are also all above league-average.

Getting the likes of Maikel Garcia (.164, .555 OPS, 58 OPS+) and Hunter Renfroe (.176, .583, 67) going will be crucial if Kansas City hopes to continue their ascension. It takes a village, so having as many players clicking at once will be a key to this club’s success.

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