The KC Royals have had some terrific players over the years. Who’s the best of the bunch that isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet?
Being a KC Royals player and getting into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is pretty rare. George Brett is the only person to do so in the franchise’s history. Despite having some great players in the past, there haven’t been any others who’ve been elite enough to crack the Hall.
On the Royals’ all-time bWAR (Baseball-Reference’s WAR) leaderboard, the top five is filled with household names — at least for Royals fans. Kevin Appier was perhaps the best small-school draft pick in franchise history, winning 115 games as a member of the team. Amos Otis was a five-time All-Star and played with Willie Wilson in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. Bret Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award twice and posted a 3.21 ERA during his time with the team.
The next five players all have impressive resumes, but perhaps none had a better individual season than Zack Greinke. The current Houston Astros pitcher won the Cy Young Award in 2009, his age-25 season. Going 16-8 despite having some of the worst run support in all of baseball, Greinke’s 2.16 ERA, 2.33 FIP and 1.073 WHIP all led baseball. It was arguably the best season of his career (his 19-3 2015 campaign makes it a debate).
Jay Jaffe of ESPN.com recently published an article (subscription required) in which he picked every American League team’s best player that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Instead of the aforementioned Appier, Otis, Wilson, Saberhagen or anyone else in KC Royals history, Jaffe went with Greinke. Here was his reasoning behind the pick:
"“He has pitched for five other teams since being traded away in December 2010, but Greinke was drafted by the Royals in 2002 and put together his strongest season for them in ‘09, a year in which he led the AL in ERA (2.16), FIP (2.33) and WAR (10.4), the last of which trails only Randy Johnson’s 10.7 in 2002 among all pitchers in this millennium. He has already surpassed 200 wins (205) and is in range of 3,000 strikeouts (2,622), as well as the JAWS standard for pitchers (59.6); at 36 years old, he still has some quality innings left in that right arm.”"
I suppose this comes down to how you view the question. Technically speaking, Greinke was a member of the Royals, had a terrific 2009 season and has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career in its totality. He still probably has a few quality seasons left as a starter. On the other hand, his career in Kansas City didn’t truly take off and become a good one until 2007. By 2011, he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. The longevity as a Royal simply isn’t there.
Greinke checks in at No. 10 on the KC Royals’ all-time WAR leaderboard with 26.3 Over the course of his career, he’s amassed 71.0 WAR. That would rank second to only Brett if all 16 of his seasons were in Kansas City. How you view the question plays a major role in who you’d pick for the best Royals player to not make the Hall of Fame (yet).
Do you agree with Jaffe’s pick? Do you think someone else is more deserving? Let us know in the comments below.