Kevin Joseph Witt
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 4", Weight 200 lb.
- High School Bishop Kenny High School
- Debut September 15, 1998
- Final Game September 30, 2006
- Born January 5, 1976 in High Point, NC USA
Kevin Witt hit 279 home runs in the minor leagues, leading his league three times. In his only chance to play somewhat regularly in the majors, he did okay for the 2003 Detroit Tigers.
High school and draft position
He was the first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1994 amateur draft, the 26th overall selection. He had hit .481 as a high school senior, making the Baseball America first-team all-American high school team along with Troy Glaus, Josh Booty and Terrence Long on the infield. Kevin signed for a $470,000 bonus.
1994-1997: Moving up the system
Kevin batted .255/.300/.416 for the 1994 Medicine Hat Blue Jays but fielded only .914 at shortstop, making 25 errors in 57 games. Baseball America rated him as the #6 prospect in the Pioneer League. In '95, Witt moved up to the Hagerstown Suns, batting .232/~.274/.397 with 35 doubles, while leading the Toronto farm system with 148 strikeouts (in 479 AB).
Witt showed some improvement with the Dunedin Blue Jays of 1996, producing at a .271/~.330/.426 line at age 20 and cutting his strikeout total to 96 in 446 AB. His 48 errors led all Florida State League shortstops, though. Baseball America rated him the Jays' #6 prospect. Kevin continued his fine development in '97, leading the Toronto chain with 30 home runs. He batted .289/~.347/.539 for the Knoxville Smokies and drove in 91. That year, he moved to the corner infield, though he fielded only .885 in 34 games at third (he had a .992 mark in 66 at first). He tied Luis Raven and Mike Coolbaugh for the Southern League lead in home runs hit and tied Raven for the lead with 7 intentional walks. He made the SL All-Star team as a utility man and was named the #10 prospect in the league by Baseball America.
1998-2000: Syracuse standby
In 1998, Witt began a long run at AAA. He hit .273/~.348/.481 for the Syracuse SkyChiefs while playing first base the vast majority of the time and hitting 23 home runs. He went 1 for 7 with three strikeouts for the 1998 Blue Jays in his first look at the major leagues. He led International League first basemen in fielding percentage (.996) and double plays (105). He started the 1999 season in Toronto, batting only .206/.250/.324 as a DH and PH. Returning to Syracuse for the rest of '99, Kevin blasted 24 homers and put up a .278/~.373/.520 line.
In 2000, the 24-year-old was still young for AAA and cracked 26 long balls, but his line read just .247/.316/.476 and he whiffed 132 times. His 14 errors led IL first sackers but he did finish 7th in the league in home runs hit.
2001-2004: Bouncing around AAA and a few more looks at the majors
Kevin moved to the San Diego Padres as a free agent in 2001 and batted .289/.322/.550 for the Portland Beavers. He led the club in homers, RBI (87), runs (66, tied with Ernie Young) and slugging, though his walk rate was dropping (only 22 in 129 games while striking out 127 times). As a September call-up to San Diego, Witt homered twice in 27 AB and had a .185/.233/.407 line in 14 games.
In 2002, the slugger was picked up by the Cincinnati Reds and spent all year with the Louisville Bats. He led the Reds chain in strikeouts (140) and RBI (107) while hitting .263/.314/.472 with 24 HR. He tied for 4th in the IL in home runs and led the league in runs batted in, 16 ahead of David Doster. He made the IL All-Star team as a DH and was 5th in the minors in RBI but did not get called up to the majors.
At age 27, Witt moved to the Detroit Tigers. He hit .316/.391/.594 with 9 HR in 39 games for the Toledo Mud Hens and got called up to Detroit. Spending the rest of the year in the majors, he batted .263/.301/.407 for a decent 89 OPS+ in his only good glance at the majors. He played 93 games as a DH, OF, 1B, 3B and PH with those 2003 Tigers.
Kevin joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 2004, but with Albert Pujols at first, Scott Rolen at third and outfielders like Reggie Sanders, Jim Edmonds, So Taguchi, Larry Walker and Ray Lankford, Witt didn't get into any games in St. Louis. With the Memphis Redbirds, he batted .306/.353/.600 with 36 HR and 107 RBI. He only drew 28 walks while striking out 112 times. He led the Pacific Coast League in home runs.
2005: A bust in Japan
Kevin signed with the Yokohama BayStars in 2005 but never got going and spent most of the years in ni-gun. With Yokohama, he struggled as the starting left fielder and got another chance in interleague games, splitting DH duties with Takanori Suzuki; Witt hit only .172/.206/.406 in 25 games. In ni-gun, he batted .326/.377/.569 with 12 HR and 43 RBI in 50 contests with the Shonan SeaRex and won MVP honors.
2006: Back to the USA; IL MVP
He hit .291/.360/.577 with 36 homers and 99 RBIs with the Durham Bulls in 2006 and was named International League MVP. He led the IL in home runs, slugging, total bases (280), extra-base hits (66) and RBI and tied for the lead in intentional walks (8). He had a cup of coffee with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays late in the season and hit just .148/.148/.279 in 19 games before being released in October. Witt hit the most home runs in all of the minor leagues that year (giving him the Round-Tripper Award) and was an IL All-Star at first base. He also was the MVP of the AAA All-Star Game, getting three hits, including a 2-run homer.