The Royals have announced the 2019 candidates to be inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame, and among the first-time candidates are pitcher Yordano Ventura, who died tragically in the off-season after the 2016 season. Other first-time candidates include pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Bruce Chen, catcher John Buck, and outfielders David DeJesus and Raul Ibanez. Five other players return on the ballot after getting ten percent on the previous ballot, including pitcher Al Fitzmorris, infielder Kevin Seitzer, and outfielders Al Cowens, Johnny Damon, and Bo Jackson.
To be eligible for the Royals Hall of Fame a player must be active with the Royals for at least three seasons and accumulated a minimum of 1,500 plate appearances or 300 innings pitched, and be retired for at least three seasons. You can read the process to come up with candidates here and vote for your choice here. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s nominees:
Jeremy Affeldt, 2002-2006
17-22, 4.77 ERA, 101 ERA+, 399 2⁄3 innings, 4.1 rWAR
The Royals couldn’t develop any pitching after Kevin Appier, so when Jeremy Affeldt showed up with an electric fastball and a big bender, people got excited. But constant blister issues and inconsistency kept Affeldt from being a big impact starter, and he shuttled in between the rotation and bullpen, making 42 starts and 142 relief appearances for the Royals. He was eventually traded to the Rockies, and enjoyed a 14-year career as a relief pitcher.
John Buck, 2004-2009
.235/.298/.407, 84 OPS+, 584 games, 70 home runs, 2.0 rWAR
The Royals had been searching for years for a reliable starting catcher, so they insisted upon getting a backstop in the Carlos Beltran deal. The return was John Buck, an Astros catching prospect who had big power, but had trouble hitting for average and was below-average defensively. Buck did finish eighth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2004 and reached double digits in home runs in his first four seasons with the Royals, but was barely above replacement level each season in Kansas City.
Bruce Chen, 2009-2014
47-43, 4.53 ERA, 92 ERA+, 718 2/3 innings, 6.1 rWAR
Chen was once a top prospect, but turned into a journeyman pitching with the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, Red Sox, Orioles, and Rangers before he finally landed in Kansas City in 2009. He was a serviceable starter for a few years, winning 44 games with a 4.17 ERA from 2010-2013 as a prototypical junkball lefty.
Al Cowens, 1974-1979
.282/.329/.404, 103 OPS+, 812 games, 45 home runs, 12.1 rWAR
Cowens was a speedy rightfielder who the Royals took in the 75th round of the draft out of Compton in Los Angeles. He was a starter on three Royals playoff teams in the 70s, and finished second in MVP voting in 1977 when he hit .312/.361/.525 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI, a 5.4 WAR season, according to Baseball Reference. Cowens was solid in all aspects of the game, and enjoyed a 13-year big league career, going on to play for the Angels, Tigers, and Mariners.
Johnny Damon, 1995-2000
.292/.351/.438, 101 OPS+, 803 games, 65 home runs, 17.3 rWAR
Damon was considered the heir apparent, once appearing in an ad as a rookie where he wrestled with the remote control with George Brett, a none-too-subtle metaphor for the huge expectations on his shoulders. Damon combined elite speed with an elite hit tool, a skillset perfect for Kauffman Stadium’s spacious outfield. He led the league in steals with 46 in 2000, hitting .327/.382/.495 and finishing 18th in MVP voting. Unfortunately that would be his last season in Kansas City, as the club would ship him to Oakland in an ill-fated deal.
David DeJesus, 2003-2010
.289/.360/.427, 108 OPS+, 876 games, 61 home runs, 18.1 rWAR
DeJesus couldn’t match the speed of Damon or the power of Beltran, but once they departed he was a solid outfielder who did a little bit of everything well. One of the most patient Royals hitters of his era, he had a walk rate of 8.2% and topped the .350 on-base percentage mark in all but one of his full seasons in Kansas City. DeJesus was a solid outfielder, capable of playing all three positions.
Al Fitzmorris, 1969-1976
70-48, 3.46 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1098 innings pitched, 15.4 rWAR
An outfielder-turned-pitcher, the Royals selected Fitzmorris from the White Sox in the 1969 expansion draft. He was a versatile swingman, making 136 starts and 107 relief appearances with the Royals. He won 16 games in 1975 as a 4.4 WAR pitcher, according to Baseball Reference, throwing 242 innings that year. He won 15 games the next year before the Royals lost him to the Blue Jays in the expansion draft.
Raul Ibanez, 2001-2003, 2014
.286/.343/.483, 110 OPS+, 431 games, 57 home runs, 4.2 rWAR
Ibanez was let go by the Mariners, but became a sensation in Kansas City, hitting .294/.346/.537 with 24 home runs and 103 RBI in 2002. His short stint with the Royals would kick-start his career, a 19-year career in which he totaled 305 home runs. Ibanez would return to the Royals at the end, providing leadership and clubhouse presence during their 2014 pennant run.
Bo Jackson, 1986-1990
.250/.308/.480, 112 OPS+, 511 games, 109 home runs, 7.0 rWAR
Perhaps the most famous athlete in Royals history, Bo Jackson was a player that transcended the stat-sheet. His first hit was a routine grounder that he beat out for a single. His first home run landed on top of the grassy knoll in left-center, still considered the longest home run in Kauffman Stadium history. Jackson, a two-sport athlete, was an international sensation and a nightly highlight reel. He would be named MVP of the 1989 All-Star Game, but his best season may have been the next year when he hit .272/.342/.523 with 28 home runs and 3.5 rWAR and tied a Major League record with home runs in four consecutive at-bats.
Kevin Seitzer, 1986-1991
.294/.380/.394, 115 OPS+, 741 games, 33 home runs, 17.3 rWAR
Seitzer had one of the most prolific rookie seasons in franchise history. leading the league with 207 hits and batting .323 in 1987. Seitzer was an excellent contact hitter who had a patient eye, the last Royals hitter to draw 100 walks in a season. He later served as hitting instructor for the club.
Yordano Ventura, 2013-2016
38-31, 3.89 ERA, 106 ERA+, 547 2/3 innings, 7.1 rWAR
Ventura was one of the brightest young pitchers produced by the Royals, but died tragically far too soon before anyone could see his full potential. Ventura won 14 games his rookie season with a 100-mph fastball, finishing sixth in Rookie of the Year voting. That fall, he tossed seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 of the World Series, an emotional game following the death of his countryman Oscar Taveras. Unfortunately, Ventura would suffer a similar fate, dying in a car accident after the 2016 season.
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