Three is a magical number in baseball.
Three strikes. Three outs. Three is a factor for the number of innings, lineup spots and total outs in a game.
Baseball fans also tend to think of great players in groups of three.
Tinker to Evers to Chance. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz.
Each Hall of Fame trio is linked by a common element.
The same is true of the so-called holy trinity of American League shortstops of the 1990s: Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Or the current young Latino superstars of the National League: Ronald Acuña Jr., Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr.
The next baseball power trio is set to emerge in the minor leagues. That’s where Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., Tigers outfielder Riley Greene and Padres shortstop CJ Abrams will begin—but not necessarily end—the 2021 season.
Witt, Greene and Abrams were selected out of high school with the second, fifth and sixth overall picks in the 2019 draft. The trio’s upside was recognized by scouts at the time, when all three were 18 years old.
“There is impact to be found at the top of the class and in many of the bats,” we wrote leading up to the 2019 draft, while also referencing standout college hitters Adley Rutschman, Andrew Vaughn and JJ Bleday.
Witt, Greene and Abrams are now each 20 years old, and because the 2020 minor league season was lost to the pandemic, the trio ranges from 165 to 251 plate appearances of official pro experience, all in 2019.
While Witt, Greene and Abrams shined at their clubs’ alternate training sites and instructional league camps in 2020, the trio’s performance in the heat of minor league competition this season will take on added significance just from its novelty.
If spring training was any indication, the trio will be just fine.
Witt, who is from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, launched three home runs in 14 spring games, including one mammoth 484-foot blast. He is the Royals’ shortstop of the future.
Greene, who is from an Orlando suburb, laced a double off the right field wall late in camp that left his bat with an exit velocity of 115.8 mph. That would place him in the 95th percentile of big league hitters. He is the Tigers’ right fielder of the future.
Abrams, who is from suburban Atlanta, hit .401 in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut and turned scouts’ heads this spring with his athleticism and impact potential. He might eventually move off shortstop—but not far down the defensive spectrum—to second base or center field, where he could showcase his 80 speed.
Witt, Greene and Abrams have a chance to join a rare company. Seldom do three elite high school prospects from one draft class dominate in the big leagues.
Just two previous draft classes have produced three impact position players drafted out of high school with top 10 overall picks.
In 1967, No. 1 overall pick Ron Blomberg (9.4 wins above replacement), No. 6 pick John Mayberry Sr. (25.0 WAR) and No. 10 pick Ted Simmons (50.3 WAR) all achieved major league success. Simmons was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.
It’s only fitting that Witt, Greene and Abrams have a chance to become just the third high-
impact trio of high school draft picks. They were drafted with the expectation that they would become impact big leaguers.
This season they will take huge steps toward doing exactly that.