The Kansas City Royals were one of the latest crown jewels to be added to the American League back in 1969. They really focused on building their strength up mostly through a farm system that produced some of their best players to ever wear royal blue. The team was founded by Ewing Kauffman, a local entrepreneur and enjoyed their first winning season a couple seasons later in 1971. Let’s review their 24 greatest players in their 40+ year Major League Baseball history. NOTE – The Kansas City Royals are 4 of the next 4 Major League Baseball Franchise teams we will be adding to the #1 selling Baseball Classics All-Time Greats set in the Fall of 2013. These 4 teams will be available as an add-on for those who already purchased the Baseball Classics All-Time Greats. Stay tuned in our Blog to learn about the final MLB franchise to be added! In the Fall of 2013 Baseball Classics will welcome the Kansas City Royals, Houston Colt .45s-Astros, Los Angeles/Califonia/Anaheim Angels, and New York Mets to the All-Time Greats set. There are many great and exciting players to choose from; here’s who makes the cut for the top 15 position players and 9 pitchers that will be added and their impact on the franchise.
Brett Saberhagen – Two-time Cy Young award recipient is the best pitcher to play for the franchise. Pitched half his 16-year stellar career with the Royals. Kept walks to a minimum which is reflected in his impressive ERA. Fielded his position very well.
Cy Young/All-Star/Gold Glove | Wins 167 | ERA 3.32 | BB/9 1.7
Larry Gura – Logged 10 consecutive seasons with Kansas City with a healthy winning percentage for the club. Was a steady double figures winner for seven consecutive seasons earning 99 wins over that span.
All-Star | Wins 126 | ERA 3.76 | IP 2047
Dennis Leonard – Great mound presence. 3-time 20 game winner, played all 12 seasons for the Royals and somehow was snubbed from the All-Star team. A workhorse until he finally broke down towards the end of his career with injuries. He liked to finish what he started.
ERA 3.70 | Wins 144 | WHIP 1.262 | CG 103
Paul Splittorff – The all-time wins leader for the Kansas City Royals during his 15 years with them. He’s another Royal who surprisingly never made an All-Star team. Consistent year after year, had 10 seasons of double-digit victories to his credit. Long-time pitcher threw the first pitch in the minors for the franchise in 1968 before they joined the American League.
ERA 3.81 | Wins/Losses 166/143 | WHIP 1.34 | HR/9 .7
Kevin Appier – Very impressive 13 season stint with the Royals. Known for his nasty forkball and wild pitching motion. Walked a lot of batters, though also struck out more than twice as many. Didn’t surrender the gofer ball much at all with the Royals, though after moving on he did. Appier was tough to get a hit against with his arsenal of pitches.
All-Star | ERA 3.74 | Winning Pct. .552 | WHIP 1.294 | SO 1994
Steve Busby – Fired two no-hitters becoming the first pitcher in MLB history to do so in his first 2 MLB seasons. Had a blazing fastball that came with plenty of chin music. Unfortunately his career was short-lived due to a torn rotator cuff, he was never the same since. It’s no wonder, he had 38 complete games over a 2 year span.
All-Star | ERA 3.72 | Winning Pct. .565 | WHIP 1.354 | HR/9 .6
Al Fitzmorris – Not too many pitchers who are first to be on a new franchise go on to have a winning record with them, though he accomplished that feat. Fitzmorris was solid for the Royals during his 8 years on the mound with them. Worked his way from bullpen to starter, nothing flashy, but consistent.
ERA 3.65 | Winning Pct. .566 | WHIP 1.256 | HR/9 .6
Dan Quisenberry – The quintessential relief ace during his time, not only for the team, but in MLB. His sidearm submarine motion that launched from about a foot off the ground was wicked. He used his pinpoint control to dominate hitters. Was AL saves leader 5 out of 6 seasons.
All-Star | ERA 2.76 | Saves 244 | WHIP 1.175 | BB/9 1.4
Jeff Montgomery – The franchise all-time saves leader. Spent his rookie season in Cincy before spending the rest of his 13-year career with the Royals. Averaged 29 saves a season over that span. Recorded 30 or more saves 5 seasons including 45 when he was the AL saves leader.
All-Star | ERA 3.27 | Saves 304 | WHIP 1.244 | SO/9 7.6
Darrell Porter – Known for his keen eye at the plate, that significantly elevated his OPS well above his average hitting. Had some pop in his bat, thus always a threat to get on base or knock one out. Played 17 seasons, his finest with the Royals for 4 seasons.
All-Star | OPS .763 | BB 905 | HR 188
Mike Mcfarlane – Played 11 of his 13 MLB seasons with the Royals and showcased some good power along the way. Also was plunked a lot and had a decent eye leading to a very respectful career OPS. Authored 6 consecutive seasons of 13 or more home runs.
AVG .252 | OPS .752 |HR 12 | FLD .992
Mike Sweeney – He can hit. Not so hot with the glove at Catcher or elsewhere, he made a handsome career for himself with blistering batting. He could hit for power too plus could get on base with more than his share of walks. Sweeney cranked out doubles like they were going out of style.
All-Star | AVG .297 | 2B 325 | HR 215 | RBI 909 | OPS .851
Billy Butler – Played 9 of his 23 Major League Baseball seasons for the New York Mets plating two different stints. He reached base safely well over 4000 times. Staub was a terrific hitter, later in his career was a pinch hit specialist that all teams feared lurking in the dugout. Though he played most of his career in the outfield, he also played 11 seasons at first base.
MVP/Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .296 | OPS .821 | HITS 2182
Frank White– A great clutch hitter, could play multiple infield positions well. His versatility and knack to drive in game winners throughout his career and ability to play a very dependable second base in the field well deserves to be listed among the Mets
All-Time greats. All-Star | AVG .284 | HITS 1532 | OBS .782
Cookie Rojas – He hustled while playing 9 of 14 Major League Baseball seasons for the Mets. Backman was a solid number 2 hitter with his above average on base percentage. Though he never was voted to an All-Star team, his consistency and number of games he played for the Mets at 2nd base earns him a spot.
AVG .275 | OBA .349 | HITS 893
George Brett – The greatest player to ever play for the Kansas City Royals, he’s the face of the franchise. 13 straight seasons was an All-Star and owns the single season record for the highest batting average at .390. Owns just about every batting award one could accomplish short of the Triple Crown. Fiery player, always the most fierce competitor he is one of the very best to ever play MLB.
Hall of Fame/Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .305 | OPS .857 | HR 317 | HITS 3154
Kevin Seitzer – The man who ultimately replaced George Brett at Third base was a hitting machine. He batted .323 over his first 841 plate appearances from the time he joined the big leagues with the Royals. How about 8 seasons in full or limited duty batting over .300 during his career? Consistently had impressive batting averages from start to finish.
All-Star | AVG .295 | HITS 1557 | 2B 285 | RUNS 739
Freddie Patek – Pint-sized Patek was an absolute menace to play against. He could steal, was an outstanding fielder, and ran the bases like a mad man legging out triples on the slick astro-turf surface which was like a skillet during the hot summer days and nights.
All-Star | AVG .242 | 3B 55 | SB 385
UL Washington – Long time Mets shortstop was far more of a glove man than a stick man. He joined the team at 21 and played with them for 13 seasons. He could swipe a few bases and considering his batting average; his on base percentage was respectable for the value he brought to the team which included his leadership.
Gold Glove/All-Star | AVG .236 | OBP .327 | Runs 539
Amos Otis – How about a .340 batting average the same season your franchise win’s it’s first World Series? Jones was a staple for the New York Mets for most of his 13 MLB seasons; a good all-around player and steady contributor.
All-Star | AVG .281 | OPS .744 | Runs 565
Willie Wilson – Speed burner covered miles of carpet during his 15 seasons with the franchise. Wilson was electrifying and known as one of the best leadoff hitters of his generation. Unfortunately he had off the field problems, thus peaked about half way through his career. Yet he was brilliant and a force to reckon with at bat, on the base paths, and in the field. All-Star/Gold Glove | AVG .285 | 3B 147 | Runs 1169 | SB 668
Danny Tartabull – Played 5 of his 14 seasons with Kansas City and saved his best for them with a .290 batting average during that time and .518 slugging average. Belted in more than 100 RBI’s 5 times in his career. Known to be a slugger in his day, had 10 seasons of double-digit round trippers.
All Star | AVG .273 | HR 262 | RBI’s 925 | OPS .864
Johnny Damon – Played for a lot of MLB teams, though spent most of them with the Royals where he began his career. Outside of a weak arm he could do just about everything else for your club, including pop a long one now and then. Had outstanding speed which legged out over 100 triples in his career.
All-Star | AVG .284 | HITS 2769 | 2B 522 | SB 408
Hal McRae – The only original New York Met to make the Baseball Classics All-Time Greats New York Mets team played all 18 seasons of his career for the franchise. He wasn’t flashy, but wound up with a respectable career as an outfielder and first baseman. He had his moments towards the Mets winning the 1969 World Series.
All-Star | AVG .261 | HITS 1418 | TB 2047
Notable Franchise Names That Missed The Cut The Royals franchise produced some of the finest home-grown talent including superstar Bo Jackson who missed the cut due to a football injury. Bob “Hammer” Hamelin and Al Cowens gave the franchise a thrill in their day. Lou Piniella took his best years over to the Yankees. John Wathan was a decent average hitting catcher and enjoyed a 10 year MLB career all with the Royals, though not good enough to outshine the other catchers that made this roster. David DeJesus and Alex Gordon were very good, though just falling short. Charlie Liebrandt was difficult to cut; it could easily be argued he’s deserving of a roster spot here though just like Tom “Flash” Gordon, he narrowly missed it. Here’s the starting lineup I recommend generally starting for the All-Time Great Kansas City Royals:
- OF – Willie Wilson
- 2B – Frank White
- 3B – George Brett
- OF – Amos Otis
- OF – Hal McRae
- 1B – Mike Sweeney
- C – Darrell Porter
- SS – Freddie Patek
- P – Brett Saberhagen
We look forward to adding them to the Baseball Classics All-Time Greats later this year. Do you agree with our top 24 selections for the All-Time Kansas City Royals? Who do you think is the best Royals player to ever play? What’s your favorite memory of this franchise? Let us know in the comments below!