Bobby Witt Jr. Talks Hitting

Bobby Witt Jr.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Witt Jr. is more than just the best player on a bad team; he’s potentially on his way to becoming a superstar. Playing in his second big league season, the Kansas City Royals shortstop has 28 home runs and 39 stolen bases to go with 5.0 WAR. Projected by Eric Longenhagen as “the face of this franchise’s resurgence” during last year’s rookie campaign, he debuted at age 21 and didn’t turn 23 until this past June. And he’s been one of baseball’s best hitters in the second half, posting a .399 wOBA and 152 wRC+ since the All-Star break.

Selected second overall in the 2019 draft behind Adley Rutschman, the Colleyville, Texas native approaches his craft with a keep-it-simple attitude, at the same time continuing to hone a swing that’s always come natural to him. It’s hard to argue with success.

Witt discussed his evolution as a hitter when the Royals visited Fenway Park in August.

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David Laurila: I’ve asked a number of guys whether hitting is more of an art or more of a science. How do you view it?

Bobby Witt Jr: “I think it’s more of an art, because of the swing. So many people have different types of swings. I feel like you form your swing at a young age, and you pretty much critique it off of that. That’s how I look at it.”

Laurila: There is obviously a lot of data in today’s game. I’m sure you’ve studied your swing.

Witt Jr: “Yes, but I’m not really big into the data. I’m more of a visual learner. I see things that I like to do, whether it’s watching guys on TV, or… like, growing up, I would try to emulate guys’ swings. That was kind of how I made my swing.”

Laurila: Whose swing did you try to emulate?

Witt Jr: “Pretty much whoever I was really liking at the time. I grew up a big Red Sox fan and was always kind of smaller growing up, so Dustin Pedroia was one. I had the narrow stance with the big leg kick. I also liked watching Prince Fielder a little bit and transitioned into a toe tap. So just watching guys and seeing what they’re doing on the field, seeing what their approach was. From a young age, I was trying to emulate that to myself.”

Laurila: Pedroia was short and direct to the ball, with the length in his swing primarily coming in his followthrough. Is that something you recognized?

Witt Jr: “Not really. I was more so just looking at his stance at the time and trying to hit the ball.”

Laurila: Looking back at guys you watched, is there a hitter you’d comp yourself to?

Witt Jr: “No. I think it’s just pieces from different guys’ swings. I don’t think I look like anyone else. I think I just look like Bobby Witt Jr. That’s all I want to be. I’m just trying to build my swing to who I am now.”

Laurila: How would you describe your swing?

Witt Jr: “I try to have it as simple as possible. I just try to get in a comfortable position, get the foot down, and be on time. That’s what feels natural to me. I feel that what comes natural is who you are. Your body moves a certain way, and while you can always critique it, to get into a habit takes awhile. So, knowing your swing and how your body feels each and every day is kind of how you have to approach it.”

Laurila: I assume you’ve worked with (Royals director of hitting) Drew Saylor. What does he talk to you about?

Witt Jr: “Nothing too crazy. Just approach things and trying to get my body in a good position. But again, my mantra is to keep everything simple. Hitting is hard enough, so when I get in the box, I just grind. I look for good pitches and try to swing at good pitches.”

Laurila: What are you swinging in the box? What is your bat model?

Witt Jr: “I made my own model, but Homewood is the bat company. It’s kind of the same as my swing, I took pieces from bats I liked and made my own.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on that?

Witt Jr: “I like a more balanced bat. It’s kind I-13 handle-ish. I felt one of Ronald Acuña Jr.’s bats and liked his barrel — it’s kind of a longer barrel, not too crazy big. Then I just kind of balanced it up.”

Laurila: Wrapping things up, your approach to hitting sounds pretty straightforward.

Witt Jr: “Yeah. Just keep building, because this game is about adjustments. You’ve got to get better each and every day, so whether it’s working on little things in the cage or on the field, I’m just trying to get better. At the same time, I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Jacob Berry, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Charlie Blackmon, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Triston Casas, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Garrett Cooper, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Marcelo Mayer, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Marcus Semien, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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tz
7 months ago

Bobby Witt Jr. and Cole Ragans articles back to back on the same day. Is September 5 the annual Be Kind To Royals Fans Day 😉 ??