Since I was born in 1990, I wasn't able to witness some of the Royals greats who played in the franchise's successful heyday during the 1970s and 80s. Therefore my list is largely based on stats, awards won, and highlight film. Longevity was also a key factor when determining the players on my list. Keep in mind this list is based on only what players did while in a Royals uniform. You will not see players such as Bo Jackson, Carlos Beltran, and Jermaine Dye on my list simply because they didn't have a long enough stint with the Royals.
Before I reveal my selections, I would like to list a few honorable mentions who just barely missed the cut. My honorable mentions include: Kevin Appier, Jeff Montgomery, John Mayberry, and Larry Gura.
Now, without further ado, here are my selections as the greatest players in Royals history.
10. Mike Sweeney (1995-2007)
(.299 BA/1398 H/197 HR/837 RBI/50 SB)
I begin the countdown with the most recent player who will be featured on this list. Mike Sweeney is among the greatest Royals of all-time due to the success he achieved at the plate.
The best part of his game was hitting with power. In 2000, he broke the Royals single season record with 144 runs batted in. A record which still stands today.
Sweeney also ranks second all-time in Royals history with 197 homeruns, which included five seasons of more than 20 bombs.
Sweeney not only hit for power but he also found a way to spray the ball all over the field. In fact, he hit better than .320 in three different seasons with the Royals. Sweeney's success at the plate over his Royals career earned him five All-Star Game appearances, which ties him with Amos Otis and Frank White for second most in franchise history.
9. Dennis Leonard (1974-1983,1985,1986)
(144-106 W-L/3.70 ERA/1,323 SO/103 CG/23 SHO)
Dennis Leonard was a true Royal who spent his entire 12 year career in Kansas City. During Leonard's stint in Kansas City, he racked up 103 complete games and 23 shutouts, which rank him first all-time among Royals in both categories.
The 1977 Royals were the only team in franchise history to eclipse the 100 win mark in a season and Leonard was a big key to their success that season. During the 1977 season, Leonard went 20-12, with a 3.04 ERA, including a career high 244 strikeouts. His performance earned him a fourth place finish in the Cy Young voting that year.
Perhaps Leonard was at his best in a strike shortened 1981 season where he finished with a 2.99 ERA and led the league in innings pitched with 201.2. Unfortunately, Leonard missed a lot of starts late in his career due to injury, including having to sit out the entire 1984 season. If Leonard would have finished his career in better health, he may have been slightly even higher on my list.
8. Paul Splittorff (1970-1984)
(166-143 W-L/3.81 ERA/1,057 SO/88 CG/17 SHO)
It's hard to have a list of the greatest Royals and not mention Paul Splittorff. A lot of the younger generation Royals fans remember "Splitt" for his incredible broadcasting career. The truth is, Splittorff was also a great competitor on the mound during his long 15 year career with the Royals as well.
Splittorff wasn't a dominating pitcher who was going to mow hitters down with a devastating fastball, but Splitt was a model of consistency. His longevity led him to the mountain top as the all-time Royals wins leader with 166. He also threw 2,554.2 innings, which is the most in Kansas City history.
Splittorff seemed to be at his best in the biggest games. In seven career postseason games, Splittorff finished with a 2-0 record while posting an ERA of 2.79 in 38.2 innings pitched.
With his dedication to the Royals franchise for many years as a player and broadcaster, I refer to Splittorff as Mr. Royal.
7. Hal McRae (1973-1987)
(.293 BA/1,924 H/169 HR/1,012 RBI/105 SB)
Hal McRae had a few of the most successful offensive seasons in Royals history. Perhaps his best season came in 1982 when he was 36 years old. During that season he led the league with 133 RBI and 46 doubles. He would go on to finish that season fourth in MVP voting while making the All-Star Game and earning a Silver Slugger Award.
McRae finished his career with two top five MVP finishes and three All-Star Game appearances for the Royals.
His most impressive career stat had to be his 1,012 RBI which lands him second only behind George Brett in that category.
6. Willie Wilson (1976-1990)
(.289 BA/1,968 H/40 HR/509 RBI/612 SB/1 GG)
If you time Willie Wilson from home to home, I think you would find he was the fastest player the Royals ever had.
I think Jarrod Dyson could take Wilson in a 90 foot race to first. With that being said, Wilson seemed to shift into another gear with every base he touched. If you watch Wilson's highlights, you'll see that his speed seems to continue to increase the closer he got to scoring.
Wilson used his speed to put himself number one all-time for the Royals in stolen bases. Nobody in Royals history is even close to his mark of 612 stolen bases. Amos Otis is second on the list with 272 less bag robberies.
Not only could Wilson run but he could successfully hit for contact. In 1980, Wilson led the league in hits, runs and triples. In fact, Willie's combination of speed and contact helped him lead the league five times in triples.
Wilson also grabbed two Silver Slugger Awards in his career and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice as well. Wilson's spectacular athletic ability also earned him a Gold Glove in centerfield.
5. Dan Quisenberry (1979-1988)
(2.55 ERA/238 Saves/321 SO)
There is no question that from 1982-1985, Dan Quisenberry was the best closer in the game of baseball. During the four year stretch, he led the league every year in saves, including two seasons where he had 44 and 45 respectively.
During Quiz's dominating reign as a closer, he finished top three in Cy Young voting four straight seasons. To put that feat into perspective, it took Mariano Rivera his entire career to earn that many top three Cy Young seasons.
Quiz didn't necessarily have an overpowering fastball, but he would fool his opposition with his deceptive sidearm delivery complimented with his sensational off-speed junk.
Quisenberry was certainly regarded as one of the greatest closers of all-time. Consider the fact that he has won five Rolaids Relief Man Awards with the Royals, which ties him with Rivera for the most ever.
4. Bret Saberhagen (1984-1991)
(110-78 W-L/3.21 ERA/1,093 SO/64 CG/14 SHO/1 GG)
Bret Saberhagen in my opinion is the most dominant starting pitcher the Kansas City Royals ever had. He is the only Royals pitcher to ever win the Cy Young Award twice.
One of his Cy Young Awards came during the Royals run to a World Series title in 1985. Saberhagen finished the '85 season as the World Series MVP after only allowing one run in two complete game wins against the St. Louis Cardinals.
His other Cy Young Award came in 1989 when he had his best season of his career. During the '89 season, Sabes went 23-6 with a league best 2.16 ERA and 12 complete games, which also led the league. If that's not enough, Sabehagen also grabbed a Gold Glove during the same season.
In 1991, Saberhagen threw the fourth and most recent no-hitter in Royals hitter.
3. Frank White (1973-1990)
(.255 BA/2,006 H/160 HR/886 RBI/178 SB/8 GG)
Frank White is undoubtedly the greatest defensive player the Royals have ever had. His eight Gold Glove Awards are the most in franchise history. In fact, no other Royal has more than three.
White isn't only the greatest fielder in Royals history, but he is also considered one of the greatest defensive second baseman in the history of the game. Only Hall-of-Famers, Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg, have more Gold Gloves than White at the second base position.
White used his fancy glove work to take away many runs from opponents which played a role in helping him reach five All-Star Games during his career.
From the highlights I've seen, some of the spectacular diving plays and amazing throws he made remind me of Alcides Escobar. I think that is high praise considering how many times Escobar makes SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays.
Although White is remembered mostly for his glove work, a long consistent career places him second among the Royals all-time hits list.
Longevity and a trophy case full of gold puts him number three on my all-time Royals list.
2. Amos Otis (1970-1983)
(.280 BA/1,977 H/193 HR/992 RBI/340 SB/3 GG)
Outside of George Brett, I think Amos Otis is the closest thing to a five tool player that the Royals have ever had.
Obviously I never got the privilege to see Otis play, but his career numbers and awards can paint a picture of just how good of an all-around player he really was. Otis ranks second all-time in Royals history in homeruns, stolen bases and walks. He is also third in hits, RBI, and triples.
Otis wasn't just good on the offensive end. He was also one of the best centerfielder's in the game during his time with the Royals. He earned three Gold Gloves in a four year span.
Otis' versatility led him to five All-Star Game appearances, including the one held at Royals Stadium (now called Kauffman Stadium) in 1973.
His solid play at the plate and in the field was certainly noticed, as he finished in the top five in MVP voting twice and top 10, four times over his Royals career. Otis is an all-around talent I wish I would have had the opportunity to watch.
1. George Brett (1973-1993)
(.305 BA/3,154 H/317 HR/1,596 RBI/201 SB/1 GG)
I think most people would agree that the choice for greatest Royal of all-time is a simple one. George Brett is the only National Baseball Hall-of-Famer to go in as a Royal.
Brett spent his entire illustrious 21 year career in Kansas City. Brett's accomplishments in the majors have made a strong argument for him as the greatest third baseman that baseball has ever seen. Brett was the premier third baseman in the American League for 13 straight seasons, making the All-Star Game every year from 1976-1988.
Brett's most memorable season came in 1980 when he almost made history. His .390 batting average that season was the closest anyone had came to hitting .400 in a single year since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Although Brett didn't quite reach .400, his 1980 campaign is still the only MVP season in Royals history.
Brett is the Royals all-time leader in 13 different offensive categories, including homeruns, hits, RBI, doubles and walks. In fact, Brett's 3,154 hits is 16th all-time in MLB history.
Brett's impressive resume also includes leading the league in hits, slugging, OPS and triples on three separate occasions.
Most Royals fans probably remember Brett for his extraordinary hitting and helping bring Kansas City their only World Series title. Non-Royals fans probably remember him for the infamous Pine Tar Incident. I think my favorite part about looking back at Brett's highlights is watching his slow arrogant trot around the bases when he stunned the New York Yankee fans after he hit a clutch postseason homerun.