Apr 3, 2015; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers hitting coach Wally Joyner (8) watches batting practice before the start of a spring training baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
15. Wally Joyner
When Wally Joyner burst onto the scene in 1986 as a 24-year-old rookie, he slammed 24 home runs while slashing .290/.348/.457 with 22 home runs and 100 RBI’s on his way to a second place finished in the Rookie-Of-The-Year vote and his only All-Star nod. He helped drive the Angels to the AL West title, earning the knickname “Wally World” after the amusement park in 1982’s iconic comedy “Vacation”.
The name was a perfect fit, because the baby-faced Joyner looked more like a bat boy than player (indeed, on his first day in the bigs, the gate attendant directed him to the bat boy entrance). The weird thing was, this lanky first baseman that looked like a kid followed up his rookie season with a 34-dinger year in 1987.
When he came to Kansas City as a free-agent in 1992, he still looked rather young despite being a 30-year-old veteran. But, the league had figured out how to avoid his power and he became more of a solid all-around bat that hit close to .300 with around 11 home runs—which made him a pretty darn good player.
Joyner was part of a last-ditch attempt by Ewing Kauffman to win a title before his death. While Mr. Kauffman passed away in 1993, Wally-World remained with the KC Royals to play for the last gasp of competent baseball before the long winter of buffoonery that began in 1996.
Wally Joyner played four seasons for the Kansas City Royals from 1992-95, amassing a workman-like slash line of .293/.371/.434 with 44 home runs for an OPS+ of 113 (13% better than a league average hitter). Though he never hit more than 15 home runs in a KC Royals uniform, he was a middle of the lineup presence with his gap power and reliable approach at the plate.
In many ways, with his lanky frame, lefty stance, and smooth defense at first base, Wally Joyner looked a lot like Eric Hosmer in his better seasons with the Royals. Of course, Joyner didn’t play in any championship games.
Wally Joyner went on to play six more seasons, retiring after the 2001 season at age 39 with a solid .289/.362/.440 slash line with 204 home runs and 2060 hits.
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