The Boston Red Sox and the curious case of Jantzen Witte
By Hunter Noll
The Boston Red Sox have had some injury problems in 2019. Could career minor leaguer Jantzen Witte be a solution at some point during the season?
Jantzen Witte is a curious case. I covered him in a few Prospect Watch articles last season, and he made his first appearance of 2019 this week. The 29-year-old has never played a game in the Majors but he’s proven to be solid in the minors.
Witte has played everywhere in the infield (except shortstop), as well as left field. However, he’s primarily a first baseman and third baseman. Last year, the right-handed hitter finished with a .270 average and 63 RBI. This season, he’s raking in Triple-A with a .329 average (he’s hitting .290 overall).
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In Triple-A, Witte has eight doubles and nine RBI to go along with two steals. The right-handed hitter has combined for one home run and 11 RBI total to go along with that .290 average between Triple-A and Double-A.
Back in 2014 (his first full season in the system), Witte had all kinds of potential. He absolutely mashed at the plate, finishing the season with a .312/.379/.500 slash line between Full-A and Advanced-A. In that year, he roped 44 doubles and six triples as well as 12 home runs. He also managed 93 RBI and 71 runs scored to go along with six steals.
The problem is, every stat in that paragraph is still a career-high to this day. To many, that would be his progression stopped – that’s simply not the case though.
Witte simply moved on to higher levels. Then last season he had his best year since that 2014 campaign – tying his highs in home runs (12) and steals (6). He also had his best numbers since 2014 in triples (3), RBI (63) and runs scored (56). Most importantly, it was a major turnaround from a disappointing 2017 that saw a number of career-worsts.
Now it appears he could be going after some numbers again in 2019.
There’s reason to believe his strong start isn’t a fluke either. Witte’s always been a solid bat who sometimes just gets unlucky with his outs. He’s always been able to limit the strikeouts (only surpassed 100 once) and in 2018 showed the ability to drive in runs again.
Last season, Witte hit .322 with runners in scoring position. This year he’s doing even better with a .364 average in those situations. His clutch-hitting has proven to be an asset that helps him drive in runs even without a power bat. That’s something that could raise his stock in the system.
Witte isn’t someone that’s going to garner a lot of attention. The Red Sox could call on him at some point. Steve Pearce has already been hurt, as have Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt and Tzu-Wei Lin. Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia can’t seem to get healthy anymore.
If the injury bug continues to rear its ugly head – could Jantzen Witte make his MLB debut in 2019? A case could definitely be made for him – a curious case, yes – but a case nonetheless. Here’s to hoping it happens. Not just because he’s worked hard and deserves it – but because when watching him play, there’s something about his bat that could thrive in the Majors.