2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Bobby Witt Jr. Making a First Round Case

by Ryan Kirksey
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In this week’s 2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends column, we will look at the mid-season emergence of Bobby Witt and make the case that he could be a first-round pick in 2023 Fantasy leagues.

After a very slow start in April 2022, Witt has completely turned his game around from both a power and speed perspective.

Is the strong play this summer sustainable and just how high should Witt be drafted in spring 2023?

This piece will look at the talented rookie who has suddenly turned into a top-of-the-line fantasy asset.

2022 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Bobby Witt Jr. Making a First Round Case

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When April ended, it is safe to say those who invested a relatively high draft pick in rookie Bobby Witt Jr. were supremely disappointed. His first month in the big leagues brought brought managers a .216/.247/.311 slash line with a 25% strikeout rate, zero home runs, and six runs. Any fantasy value that managers could salvage were completely due to his four stolen bases during the season's first month.

But in the months of May thru July, essentially half an MLB season, Witt has completely turned his fortunes around and has been one of fantasy baseball's most complete assets.  In just under three months, Witt has produced a .268/.315/.498 slash with 14 home runs, 45 runs, 46 RBI, and 16 stolen bases.

That would give Witt a roughly 30/30/90/90 pace with a .500 slugging percentage for a full season. Since the year 2000, only 19 players in all of baseball have reached all of those milestones in a single year. Those include some legendary performances and top-three MVP finishes from players like Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Carlos Beltran, and Vladimir Guerrero, Sr.

That trend of less than one player per year since the turn of century puts Witt firmly in the first round discussion for 2023 drafts. The question then becomes, can he keep up the pace for a full season?

Can Bobby Witt Jr. Keep Up the First Round Pace?

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There was a reason Witt was a consensus top-100 pick in fantasy drafts this season despite him never playing a professional out before. Once it was announced he had won an opening day gig on the Royals, the presumption was that the power and speed tools would more than pay off that draft slot in the long run.

Those prognostications have proven to be right, but is the production sustainable as we consider bumping Witt way up draft boards next spring?

The best indicators that this is for real come from Witt's plate discipline metrics. First, he has drastically improved his strikeout rate, especially in the month of July. After starting the season at around 25% in April, he is down to just 16.3% in July.

With a swinging strike rate falling that precipitously, we would expect strong contact at the plate to follow, and that's exactly what has happened.

The improvement from around a 76% zone contact rate to roughly 90% is an impressive jump in less than three months. His first pitch strike percentage has also plummeted to just 53% in July, a top-20 number in the majors this month.

This level of patience and contact ability should help Witt retain his value as he learns to navigate the choppy waters of tough major league pitching.

Bobby Witt Should be a Top-20 Player in 2023

Much of the rookie talk in the American League this year has rightly centered on Julio Rodriguez and his amazing first season. Rodriguez is likely to win Rookie of the Year in the AL, which has somewhat overshadowed the last three months for Witt. Beyond the fact that both are mildly banged up right now, there is much these two have in common.

Witt offers just as much power and stolen base upside as Julio Rodriguez but offers the positional advantage at both third base and shortstop next season. Depending on how the last two months of his season go, we could see Witt elevate his stock into the end of the first round of 15-team drafts in 2023.

Never again will we see him with a fantasy draft price tag of around pick 90-100 like we did this spring. Those days are long gone and the only debate left for next year is just how long do we wait before we see the dual threat infielder come off the draft board.

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