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Royals' Top 5 left fielders: Flanagan's take

@FlannyMLB
April 27, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only.

Here is Jeffrey Flanagan’s ranking of the top 5 left fielders in Royals history. Next week: Center fielders

Royals All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS

1) Alex Gordon, 2007-present
Key facts: Three-time All-Star, seven American League Gold Glove Awards

OK, this was pretty much a no-brainer. Someday, Gordon’s No. 4 jersey will be retired.

Gordon’s defensive accomplishments are remarkable: Seven AL Gold Glove Awards, three Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Awards and an AL Platinum Glove Award winner in 2014.

Gordon’s 98 outfield assists are tied for the most in MLB since 2010.

“To put it simply,” Royals coach Rusty Kuntz said, “he is the gold standard of left fielders in baseball.”

It’s almost hard to believe, or remember, that Gordon was drafted as a third baseman. He then was demoted to Triple-A in 2010, essentially so he could learn to play outfield under Kuntz’s tutelage.

“I was starting from nothing, from scratch,” Gordon said. “So I needed his expertise. He taught me a lot. I made a lot of mistakes down there, but no better place to do it than Triple-A.”

Gordon’s impact on the Royals over his career stretches far beyond the field. Younger players continually look up to him.

“Ever since I got drafted, I had always heard of his work ethic and routine,” said Hunter Dozier, who also has made a conversion from third base to the outfield. “And now being around him for a couple of years, it’s pretty incredible to watch.”

Gordon’s legacy will include his team-first attitude -- he has the club record for hit-by-pitches with 118, which certainly has contributed to his lifetime .339 on-base percentage.

“He is one of the most driven players in the game today,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He represents everything the league wants in a player. He can still play at a high level, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He is the player that everyone strives to be.”

2) Bo Jackson, 1986-90
Key facts: 1989 All-Star, one All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award

Oh, what could have been had Bo not been hurt.

“I never saw a human being do the things he could do on a baseball field,” legendary Royal George Brett said of Jackson.

Royals Hall of Famer Frank White also once said of Jackson, “You know what? I really did play baseball with Superman.”

In five seasons with the Royals, Jackson posted a .787 OPS with 109 home runs. His best season came in 1989 when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 105 runs and stole 26 bases.

But it wasn’t so much the numbers that created the Bo legacy -- it was the amount of jaw-dropping did-you-see-that moments he authored, whether he was throwing out a runner from the warning track or hitting 480-foot homers.

3) Lou Piniella, 1969-73
Key facts: 1969 Rookie of the Year Award, 1972 All-Star

“Sweet Lou” became a fan favorite quickly in Kansas City when he hit .282 with 11 home runs and 68 RBIs in the team’s inaugural season of 1969. He was a fierce competitor with a temper who demanded much of himself and his teammates.

Later, Piniella managed for 23 years with five different clubs, winning the Manager of the Year Award three times and winning a World Series title with the Reds in 1990.

4) Jim Eisenreich, 1987-92
Key fact: Hit .293 in 1989 with 33 doubles and 27 stolen bases

Plenty of great Royals center fielders such as Willie Wilson and Amos Otis spent time in left field as well, especially Wilson. But we’re going to categorize them as center fielders, which frankly leaves the left-fielder rankings a bit thin at this point. Eisenreich did play more than 200 games in left field during his Royals career, and he was a solid baseball player, so he’ll get the nod here.

5) Mark Quinn, 1999-2002
Key fact: Finished third for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2000

Quinn had big power and a cannon for an arm. And he seemed destined for big things after hitting 20 home runs with 78 RBIs in 2000. His career faded quickly after that season and he never made it back to the big leagues after 2002.

Honorable mention

Lonnie Smith, 1985-87: Long-time Royals fans will remember it was always an adventure with “Skates” in the outfield.

Hal McRae, 1973-87: McRae was primarily a DH with the Royals, but he played 114 games in left field in 1975 and hit .306 with 71 RBIs.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.