As a small-market franchise, the Royals have had to constantly rely on a steady pipeline of talent from their minor league system. Royals scouts have had a huge role, finding unearthed gems in the draft and amateur free agent market. Sure, a roster can be complemented by a few good free agents, and some Royals general managers have spun a few good trades to add impact players, but the core of a Royals team is almost always homegrown.
Borrowing from a question posed at Twinkie Town, I wanted to know, what do you think was the best homegrown core in Royals history? There are really four distinct eras:
The Cedric Tallis 70s finds
- George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Steve Busby, Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, Dan Quisenberry
These are the Royals legends. George Brett is the only Hall of Famer who spent most of his time in a Royals uniform. Frank White has a statue at the K, recognized as perhaps the best defensive second baseman ever. Willie Wilson is considered one of the best base-stealers of all-time. Steve Busby, Dennis Leonard, and Paul Splittorff headlined the rotation for years. Dan Quisenberry was one of the best relievers of all-time. Combined with some shrewd trades that brought guys like Amos Otis, Hal McRae, Freddie Patek, Willie Aikens, and Larry Gura, the Royals won four division titles in five years, including the 1980 pennant.
John Schuerholz’s 1980s guys
- Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson, Mark Gubicza, Kevin Seitzer, Bo Jackson, Mike MacFarlane
Sure, these teams carried over some legends like Bret, White, and Wilson, but a new crop of young pitchers were able to help lead the Royals to their first-ever championship in 1985. The Royals weren’t able to make the playoffs again under Schuerholz, but had very competitive teams in the late 80s with Bo Jackson, Kevin Seitzer, and Mike MacFarlane in the lineup, with some acquisitions like Kurt Stilwell and Danny Tartabull around them.
The losing 90s/2000s
- Kevin Appier, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney, Michael Tucker, Bob Hamelin, Jose Rosado
Well this group suffered the most losses, but that doesn’t mean this particular core wasn’t as talented as the rest. If Kevin Appier had a better lineup, how many games would he have won? If a lineup with Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and Mike Sweeney has better pitching to play with, are we talking about them with more fondness?
Dayton Moore’s champs
- Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera
Well, this is the lovable group we remember most recently. Dayton Moore pleaded with us to “Trust the Process” as he developed the best farm system in baseball. It took a long time, but eventually Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez were joining up with Alex Gordon to lead the Royals to back-to-back pennants with a nasty bullpen that featured homegrown fireballers Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera. It took some big trades - acquiring Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain from Milwaukee, and James Shields and Wade Davis from Tampa Bay. But this core gave us some of the most unforgettable moments in franchise history.