Do the 2024 KC Royals have a Jim Eisenreich?
Unlike the current Royals, the outfield was a major strength of the 1989 team. Kansas City legend Willie Wilson manned centerfield, and although he was past his prime and nearing the end of his Royal run, he was still a good player. And three outfielders, Tartabull, Jackson, and Eisenreich, were among those five '89 Royals who posted an OPS+ over 100.
Two of the three, Tartabull and Bo Jackson, qualify as star players. And although he didn't have the star power they had, Eisenreich boasted a profile that might provide a more achievable template for current KC outfielders.
Eisenreich wasn't a typical fourth outfielder, and not just because of the unique obstacles he overcame to reach the majors. He played 134 games and all three outfield positions in 1989 and slashed .293/.341/.448, hit nine homers, 33 doubles and seven triples, drove in 59 runs, and stole 27 bases. He didn't have the pop of Tartabull or Jackson, or the speed of Wilson and Jackson, but he did everything well and played a pivotal role in the team's success. Not surprisingly, he did the same at later stops in Philadelphia and Florida.
Do the 2024 Royals have anyone who can perform like Eisenreich? Newcomer Hunter Renfroe seems like the best and most proven bet. Although he has yet to show any of Eisenreich's trademark consistency, MJ Melendez has the best tools. Drew Waters needs to take a massive step forward with plate discipline, and despite his skill with the glove, it's hard to imagine Kyle Isbel will ever be that impactful with the bat. But if someone can tap into their inner Eisenreich, and Velázquez can manage to be Tartabull-lite, Kansas City's expectations for 2024 and beyond will skyrocket.