AL ROY: Eric Hosmer and the 10 Best Rookie Seasons in Kansas City Royals History
This year, the Royals contended for their fourth Rookie of the Year award since 1985 and the fifth in franchise history with to the stellar performance of Eric Hosmer. Though he fell short of winning the award, his performance was a promising note for Royals fans as they look toward the future.
Here we take a look at Eric Hosmer and the best rookie seasons in Kansas City Royals history.
#10 Rich Gale
Rich Gale is perhaps best remembered for pitching two games of the 1980 World Series, but his most impressive Major League accomplishment was his strong rookie season, one of the best ever by a Royals rookie pitcher.
Gale posted a 14-8 record, earning a 3.09 ERA and striking out 88 batters. Gale was part of a pitching rotation consisting of Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, Larry Gura and himself, each having one of the best seasons of their careers. Gale finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting—the award went to Lou Whitaker, distantly trailed by Paul Molitor in second place—and also finished 34th in MVP voting.
After 1978, Gale only had one more winning season in his career, and after spending three more seasons in Kansas City, he moved around to three teams in three years before hanging up his cleats. He earned a lifetime 55-56 record with a 4.54 ERA and 518 strikeouts.
#9 Eric Hosmer
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Eric Hosmer, a first-round draft pick in the 2008 draft, was one of the top first base prospects in all of baseball before being called up to the big leagues in May.
Hosmer proceeded to make an impact immediately, batting .283 with 5 home runs and and 17 RBI's in the month of May. After a slow June, Hosmer returned to form in July. He won the American League Rookie of the Month award due to his five home runs, 19 RBI's, and .306 batting average.
By season's end, Hosmer had racked up 19 home runs, a .293 batting average, and 78 RBI's, while playing solid defense at first base. These numbers compare favorably to the season of the last first baseman to win the Rookie of the Year Award, Ryan Howard in 2005. Howard batted .288 with 22 home runs, and 63 RBI's.
Hosmer is part of the core nucleus of young Royals who led the team this year to their second best record since the 2003 season, and who the Royals hope to build their team around in the coming years.
#8 Mark Quinn
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Royals fans had high hopes for Mark Quinn after he hit two home runs in his Major League debut, only the third player to ever accomplish this feat. Quinn returned to the big-league club the following year, his first complete season, and lived up to his promise. He batted .294 with 20 home runs and an OPS of .830. Quinn finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Seattle's Kazuhiro Sasaki and Oakland's Terrence Long.
Quinn's success was short lived, and he was out of the Majors for good after only two more years in the big leagues. In 2001 his batting average dropped to .269, but he showed good power with 17 home runs. During the off-season he sustained a non-baseball related injury—he broke his rib while doing kung-fu with his brother—and took only 76 at bats during the season, batting .237 with just 2 home runs.
Quinn was released during the off-season and bounced around the minor leagues, but wasn't able to earn a spot on a Major League team.
#7 Bob Hamelin
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Bob Hamelin was one of the more unlikely looking ballplayers to find success in the game; he looked more like a high school shop teacher than a ballplayer.
After a brief appearance in the big leagues in 1993, Hamelin's rookie season was during the strike-shortened 1994 season. Hamelin, never one to hit for high average—he would finish his career as a .246 hitter—batted .282 with a .388 on-base percentage, drawing 56 walks in 374 plate appearances. Hamelin was most noted for his power, the main reason for his Rookie of the Year Award, and his 24 home runs were seven more than the second place finisher, Manny Ramirez.
Hamelin had an awful season in 1995, batting .168 with just seven home runs in 208 at bats. His numbers improved in 1996, his final year in Kansas City, and upon moving to Detroit the next season, he hit 18 home runs with a .270 batting average. Hamelin moved to Milwaukee for a final disappointing season, and spent the beginning of the 1999 season playing AAA ball. He retired from the game mid-season.
Though Hamelin was a one-hit wonder, his powerful hitting during the strike-shortened season, coupled with his unique look, makes him one of the more memorable Royals of recent seasons.
#6 Dennis Leonard
Dennis Leonard was one of the greatest pitchers in Royals history, collecting three 20-win seasons and serving as a workhorse for the team, leading the league in games started three times and topping 280 innings pitched three times.
Leonard's rookie year was inexplicably ignored by award voters, but it was obvious almost instantly how talented he was. He earned a 15-7 record with a 3.77 ERA and 146 strikeouts, helping to lead his team to a 91-71 record, finishing second to the Red Sox.
1975 was the start of an eight-year run in which Leonard did not turn in a single losing record. In his career, which he spent entirely in Kansas City, Leonard earned a 144-106 record with a 3.70 ERA. Leonard suffered a series of knee injuries that prematurely derailed his career. Were it not for the injuries, Leonard would have had a good shot at earning 200 wins. Regardless, he is one of the finest pitchers to ever wear Royals blue.
#5 Angel Berroa
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Angel Berroa, originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics, became part of the Royals organization as part of the trade that sent Johnny Damon to Oakland. Berroa played two partial seasons in Kansas City before his rookie season in 2003, in which he edged out Hideki Matsui for the Rookie of the Year award by only two first place votes.
Berroa batted .287 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI's, impressive numbers for any rookie, let alone a shortstop. He struggled in the field, leading the American League in errors in both his rookie and sophomore campaigns, but he had a large range and was capable of spectacular plays.
Berroa's output decreased every season, and in 2007 he spent almost the entire season playing in the minors. He signed as a free agent with five more teams, earning playing time for three of them, but never again batted above .230 in a season.
#4 Tom Gordon
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Tom Gordon had a long, impressive career in which he earned a 138-126 record, 158 saves, 1928 strikeouts, and three All-Star selections, yet he was never better than he was in his rookie season.
Gordon earned a 17-9 record with a respectable 3.64 ERA in 1989, but what made him stand out most was his ability to strike batters out. He struck out 153 batters in 1989, a high number for a rookie, and good enough for tenth in the American League.
Gordon increased his strikeout total to a career high 175 the next season, but neither his win-loss record nor his ERA were as strong. Gordon spent seven full seasons in Kansas City, and then went on to play for the Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, White Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Diamondbacks. He had a few dominant seasons as a closer in Boston, but his time as a power-pitching starter in Kansas City was the highlight of his career.
#3 Kevin Appier
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During a long run in which the Royals ranged in quality from bad to adequate, Kevin Appier was one of the few bright spots on the team. In his rookie season, Appier posted a 12-8 record—a far better winning percentage than the Royals as a whole, who earned a 75-86 record—and struck out 127 batters to earn a 2.76 ERA. Appier finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, losing to Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Appier pitched for eight and a half more seasons for the Royals before leaving the club out of frustration. During that time he had six winning seasons, including a 15-8 record in 1992 and an 18-8 effort in 1993, and led the league in ERA in 1993 with a 2.56 total.
Appier returned to the Royals, in 2003, at 35 years old, but suffered from a number of injuries and was unable to pitch as he once had.
Appier finished his career with a 169-137 record and 1,994 strikeouts. He was one of the most underrated and underappreciated pitchers of his time, and likely would have had an even better career had he not spent so many years playing for poor Royals teams.
#2 Carlos Beltran
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Carlos Beltran strutted his way to the 1999 Rookie of the Year Award, receiving all but two first place votes for the award. In his rookie campaign, he hit 22 home runs, batted .293 and played strong defense at center field. His only fault was his free-swinging: he walked only 46 times in 723 plate appearances.
The Royals hoped they had something special in Beltran, but had been burned by recent disappointing followups to promising rookie seasons. Beltran followed this pattern in 2000, batting only .247 with 7 home runs. He quickly rebounded the following season, batting .306 with 24 home runs. Two more impressive seasons with the Royals followed, in which he hit 29 and 26 home runs, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in 2003.
As the Royals struggled in 2004 and Beltran's free agency loomed, the front office decided to rebuild, and reluctantly sent Beltran to the Houston Astros. During the following off-season, Beltran signed the biggest contract in Mets history. Beltran spent six and a half seasons in Queens, earning five All-Star selections. His most impressive seasons were 2006 and 2009. In the first, he hit a career high 41 home runs, while in the latter he batted a career high .325.
At 34 years old, Beltran is still an effective and sought-after player. He batted .300 in 2011 and hit 22 home runs, his most since 2008. He is currently a free agent, and is sought after by teams looking to add a strong left-handed bat to their lineup.
#1 Kevin Seitzer
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For a team that has won multiple Rookie of the Year awards, it seems odd that their most impressive rookie season would come from a player who didn't win the ROY Award. Kevin Seitzer finished second in the award voting, and would have won the award if his rookie season had been in almost any other season. He had the misfortune, however, of playing his first full season the same year as Mark McGwire, whose 49 home runs were too much for voters to ignore.
After playing first base in the majority of the 28 games he played in 1986, Seitzer moved to third base in 1987, and had one of the best offensive seasons in team history. He batted .323, leading the league in hits with 207. He also set Royals rookie records in games, hits, singles, extra-base hits, walks and total bases. Seitzer also hit a career high 15 home runs and drove in a career high 83 RBI's. Though he was denied the Rookie of the Year Award, he was rewarded with an All-Star selection.
Seitzer spent four more years in Kansas City, and his batting average and OPS dropped each season. Seitzer was released by the Royals prior to the 1992 season, and signed with the Brewers for a year. He then moved west to Oakland for one season, before returning to Milwaukee halfway through the year after Milwaukee released him.
During his second stint in Milwaukee, Seitzer had a career renaissance. He batted .314 in 1994, .311 in 1995, and .326 with 13 home runs in 1996, a season he split between Milwaukee and Cleveland. Seitzer spent a final disappointing season in Cleveland, and retired after the 1997 season.