Star power has never been in abundance for the KC Royals, but that hasn't prevented the franchise from achieving success. Look no further than the 2014 American League pennant winners and the 2015 World Series champs as examples. Never big superstars, Lorenzo Cain elevated his game to an MVP-type level, KC traded for Johnny Cueto, who was dominant in the postseason, and the "H-D-H" bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland was one of the best relief combinations ever.
Perhaps no World Series champion in recent history has been built with fewer elite pieces, offering proof that in a grinding sport like baseball, second and third-tier players often make the difference.
How might the 2024 KC Royals compare to a successful team of the past?
The 2023 Royals were bad, but the 2024 club has some potential big star power. Bobby Witt Jr. stepped into stardom last season and, if he continues on his current trajectory, can become one of the best players in baseball. Vinnie Pasquantino has the potential to be an elite hitter if he stays healthy. Salvador Perez's best days are most likely behind him, but he can still be a game-changer. Kansas City's starting pitching is notoriously volatile, but Cole Ragans certainly teased a high ceiling in his first season in Royal Blue.
And despite a promising offseason, it's probably not fair to compare the 2023 team to the 1989 Royals who won 92 games. But that's exactly what this story is about — like the 2014 and 2015 teams, the '89 club featured several outstanding role players who worked with a small core of stars to elevate the team. And because principal owner John Sherman probably won't spend insane amounts of money on elite, expensive free agents anytime soon, role players are just what the Royals need now to turn their fortunes around.
Here are three such players who helped shape the 1989 team...