Rookies Make Their Way To KC: This seemed to be the year in which most of the decade's top-rated prospects reached the Show. Rookie reliever Aaron Crow's great start made him the Royals' lone All-Star at Phoenix. Much-heralded first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez and second baseman Johnny Giavotella were called up in-season to become regulars. Left-hander Danny Duffy cracked the rotation. Greg Holland, also a rookie, became dominant in the bullpen. Twelve players made their Major League debuts and, in all, 16 Royals were classified as rookies during the season. Left fielder Alex Gordon had a breakout season and the other two outfield regulars who were signed as free agents, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, also had big years at bat. The outfielders recorded 51 assists and the improved defense also featured shortstop Alcides Escobar, obtained in the offseason deal that sent pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Despite being 20 games under .500, the team finished strong and eased into the fourth place in the AL Central.
Player of Year: For four years, Alex Gordon never quite fulfilled the expectations raised by his No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 Draft. But after overcoming medical issues, changing positions from third to the outfield and altering his swing a bit, Gordon had a smashing season: .303, 23 homers, 45 doubles, 87 RBIs and a Gold Glove in his first full season in left field. He also scored 101 runs, swiped 17 bases and had a 19-game hitting streak.
Pitcher of Year: Left-hander Bruce Chen led the Royals in victories for the second straight season with a 12-8 record. He also posted a 3.77 ERA in his 25 starts, picking up steam after missing six weeks in May and June with a lat strain. Chen closed the season strong with a 6-3 record and 2.93 in his last 10 starts. Although he became a free agent, the Royals brought him back with a two-year contract for 2012-13.
All-Star Game takes center stage: Kansas City had been without an All-Star Game since 1973, the year Kauffman Stadium opened, but the refurbished showplace got the Midsummer Classic on July 10. The city came to life with the All-Star FanFest, Futures Game, a fund-raising run/walk, a celebrity softball game, the Home Run Derby and several other related events. Then the National League All-Stars dispatched the American League, 8-0, at a jam-packed stadium. The Royals finished their season by moving up a notch to third place in the AL Central and this time just 16 games behind first-place Detroit, an improvement of eight games over 2011 despite posting just one more victory. Elbow surgery took closer Joakim Soria and starting pitchers Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino out early and knee surgery cost catcher Salvador Perez most of the first half. Billy Butler had a big year at bat and Alex Gordon won his second straight Gold Glove in left field. Shortstop Alcides Escobar was brilliant in the field and emerged as a dangerous hitter. Bruce Chen led the pitching staff in wins (11) for the third straight year.
Player of the Year: Billy Butler wasn't quite up to Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown numbers for Detroit but he led the Royals in all the Triple Crown categories with a .313 average, 29 home runs and 107 RBIs. That was the most homers by a Royal since Jermaine Dye's 33 in 2000. Butler was clutch - 10 of his homers came in the eighth inning or later, six to either tie the score or go ahead. Fittingly, he was the Royals' only All-Star player.
Pitcher of the Year: Greg Holland, a no-nonsense, hard-throwing right-hander, was thrust into a crucial role in the second half and came through. With Joakim Soria out for the year with Tommy John surgery, newcomer Jonathan Broxton took over until he was traded to the Reds at midseason. Holland filled the vacancy quite ably and finished with 16 saves, a 7-4 record and a 2.96 ERA. He also piled up 91 strikeouts in 67 innings.
It was streaky, with tough losses and exhilarating highs, but the 2013 season turned out to be the Royals' best since 1989. They won 86 games to finish 10 games over .500, making a spirited bid for a Wild Card spot thanks to an A.L.-best 43-27 mark after the All-Star Break. The Royals finished third in the A.L. Central, seven games out of first place. Pitching and defense were the strong points. James Shields went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA, Jeremy Guthrie had a team-best 15 victories and Ervin Santana posted a 3.24 ERA. Closer Greg Holland had 47 saves and a 1.21 ERA to lead a strong bullpen that had a collective 2.55 ERA, best in franchise history. Overall, the Royals' staff led the A.L. with a 3.45 ERA, the team's best since 1978. The defense had a team-record three Rawlings Gold Glove winners - left fielder Alex Gordon, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez. Shortstop Alcides Escobar and center fielder Lorenzo Cain received Gold Glove nominations while Wilson Sporting Goods named the Royals co-American League Defensive Team of the Year. Hosmer posted his first season with a .300+ batting average, adding 17 homers and 79 RBIs. Gordon had 20 home runs and 81 RBIs, one shy of team leader Billy Butler's 82. The team led the Majors in stolen bases with 153. Three All-Stars - Gordon, Perez and Holland - were the Royals' most since 1988.
Player of the Year: Eric Hosmer won his first Royals Player of the Year Award, recording career highs in average, hits, doubles and RBI. Hosmer, who turned 24 after the season, became the first Royals first baseman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove. He finished seventh in the A.L. in hits (188) and ninth in batting average (.302), with his 156 hits after May 19 leading the Major Leagues. Hosmer's 60 multi-hit games tied for fifth-most in franchise history.
Pitcher of the Year: Greg Holland may have posted the most dominant season by a KC reliever, winning his second straight Royals Pitcher of the Year honor. An All-Star for the first time, Holland set a new single-season franchise record with 47 saves, two more than Royals Hall of Famers Dan Quisenberry (1983) and Jeff Montgomery (1993). Holland's 1.21 ERA also set a franchise record for a reliever, eclipsing Montgomery's 1.37 mark in 1989. The right-hander struck out 103, leading A.L. relievers and matching a Royals record.
Right before the a July 22nd game against the White Sox, the struggling Royals, eight games out of first at the time, held a players-only meeting. Grievances were aired, and players pledged accountability to each other. Suddenly, the Royals won 26 of their next 34 games, vaulting into first place. A mid-September stumble cost the Royals' the AL Central title, but they clinched their first postseason berth since 1985 with a 3-1 win over the White Sox on Sept. 26. And that first playoff game was one for the ages - a crazy 9-8, 12-inning victory over the Oakland A's at Kauffman Stadium in the Wild Card Game. The Royals continued their magical ride by upsetting the Angels on the road twice - both in extra innings - in the ALDS. The Royals finished off the sweep at home. The Royals then pulled off yet another sweep in the ALCS over the Orioles, thus becoming the first team in history to open the post-season with eight straight wins. The magic finally ended in the Worlds Series. Alex Gordon, representing the tying run, was stranded on third in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 as Salvador Perez - the hero in the Wild Card Game - popped out in a 3-2 loss as the Giants went on to claim the World Series in seven electric games.
The Royals entered the 2015 season with high expectations after pushing the Giants all the way to Game 7 in the 2014 World Series. Off-season additions such as right-handers Chris Young and Edinson Volquez, designated hitter Kendrys Morales, and reliever Ryan Madson gave the Royals even more talent and depth than they had in 2014. Third baseman Mike Moustakas (.284, 22 homers, 82 RBIs) enjoyed a career year, as did center fielder Lorenzo Cain (.307, 16 homers, 72 RBIs, 28 steals). The Royals placed seven players on the All-Star team - shortstop Alcides Escobar, left fielder Alex Gordon (he was injured), catcher Salvador Perez, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, and pitchers Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. Trade Deadline deals for right-hander Johnny Cueto and super utility man Ben Zobrist further strengthened the roster. The Royals dominated the AL Central, bursting to a 14.5-game lead by mid-August. The Royals stumbled a bit in September but clinched the division on Sept. 24 with a 10-4 thumping of the Mariners. Down 2-1 in the ALDS to the Astros, the Royals trailed 6-2 in the eighth inning before erupting for five runs on their way to a 9-6 win. They then beat the Astros in Game 5 to advance to the ALCS against the Jays, whom they knocked off in six games. The Royals made it back-to-back World Series appearances for the first time in franchise history and dispatched the Mets in five games, the last win coming 7-2 in 12 innings. It was their first title in 30 years. Perez was the World Series MVP.
The Royals entered 2016 as the defending World Series champions and primed to reach their third straight Fall Classic. But injuries and overall fatigue derailed the champions, and despite a valiant surge in August to sneak into post-season contention, they fell back in September and finished at 81-81 for the first time in franchise history. On the positive side, they did finish .500 or above for the fourth straight season, not done in franchise history since the Royals did so from 1975 through 1980.
The Royals lost third baseman Mike Moustakas and left fielder Alex Gordon to injury after a gruesome collision in Chicago while they were chasing a foul ball. Moustakas was lost for the season with a knee injury and Gordon missed over a month with a wrist injury. That was a prelude of many more injuries to come in 2016 as outfielder Lorenzo Cain, catcher Salvador Perez, relievers Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis all were shelved due to injuries. Cain essentially missed most of the final five weeks with a hand injury and Hochevar was lost for the final two months after undergoing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery. Still, the Royals were a resilient bunch. They tied for the Major League lead with 15 come-from-behind wins after the sixth inning. None was more dramatic than their win at home against the White Sox on May 28 when they trailed 7-1 entering the ninth. Rookie Brett Eibner capped a wild seven-run rally with a walk-off RBI single and the Royals had their largest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history. Cain also had a memorable May - his three-homer game at Yankee Stadium on May 10 was the ninth in franchise history.
After a sluggish start, designated hitter Kendrys Morales became a beast from the end of May on, and he was named American League Player of the Week twice (July 3 and September 11) - the first Royal to do so. He finished with 30 homers and 93 RBIs and became the first Royal since Jermaine Dye in 2000 to hit 30 or more homers. For the fourth straight season, the Royals had multiple All-Stars as Perez, Hosmer, Davis and reliever Kelvin Herrera were picked to represent the American League. Hosmer had a night to remember, hitting a home run (as did Perez) and bringing home the game's Most Valuable Player award. Hosmer put forth a career year in some fashions, posting personal bests in home runs (25) and RBIs (104). Perez's All-Star appearance added to his yearly acclaims - he also won his fourth straight Gold Glove.
Hanging on the edge of contention, the Royals surged in August, posting a 20-9 record. Left-hander Danny Duffy (12-3, 3.51 ERA) emerged as the team's ace and had a memorable day at Tampa on August 1 at Tropicana Field when he struck out 16 hitters, eclipsing the franchise mark of 15 held by Zack Greinke. The excitement of August soon faded in September, though, and the Royals' post-season took an insurmountable blow when they were swept in four games at home by Oakland. Royals manager Ned Yost did manage a personal milestone, grabbing his 1,000th career win as a skipper with a 3-2 win over the White Sox. And there still was some hope for a winning season, but alas, those hopes were dashed when the Royals were swept in three games at home by the American League champion Indians to conclude the season.
The last hurrah. That's how many fans and observers viewed the 2017 season entering Spring Training. The core group - Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain - entered the season as pending free agents and the prospect of losing all four hovered over the team all season. Yet the group, which carried the Royals to World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015 and a world championship in 2015, pushed hard for one final postseason trip. The Royals won nine straight games in late July and pulled within 1Â½ games of first-place Cleveland, prompting general manager Dayton Moore to add more pieces at the Trade Deadline - pitchers Ryan Bukter, Brandon Maurer and Trevor Cahill, and outfielder Melky Cabrera. But in the end it wasn't enough, as the Royals faded the final two months and finished 80-82, their first losing season since 2012.
In retrospect, it was a season of tragedy and transition. On the morning of January 22, the Royals lost star right-hander Yordano Ventura, who died in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic. Kansas City grieved, several players attended the funeral, and the team wore an "ACE 30" patch on its uniforms to honor his memory. Players said throughout the year that Ventura would never be forgotten.
On the field, a team once known for its game-changing speed during its World Series runs, transitioned to team with franchise-record power. The Royals hit 193 home runs, shattering the club record of 168 set in 1987. Heading the power surge was Moustakas, who also set a franchise record with 38 home runs, besting Steve Balboni's mark of 36 set in 1985. Salvador Perez hit a career-high 27 home runs, Hosmer matched his career-high with 25 long balls, and second baseman Whit Merrifield, in his first full season in the big leagues, popped 19. Yet for all of their home-run might, the Royals went through frustrating spells of offensive lapses as well, even setting a club record by going 45 straight innings without scoring in August.
And the Royals' rotation and bullpen could not hold up down the stretch, either. Left-hander Jason Vargas, another free-agent who was 12-3 with a 2.22 ERA the first three months of the season and earned his first All-Star selection, posted a 7.22 ERA over the final three months. Right-hander Ian Kennedy had a 5.38 ERA - his worst season since 2008. Right-hander Jason Hammel slipped to a 5.29 ERA. And closer Kelvin Herrera (4.25 ERA) blew five saves before finally losing his job in September. Left-hander Mike Minor took over the closer's job and went six-for-six down the stretch, raising eyebrows around the league.
There were bright spots among the Royals' young players. Rookie right-hander Jakob Junis went 9-3 with a 4.30 ERA and appears set to be a mainstay in the rotation. Rookie right-fielder Jorge Bonifacio clubbed 17 home runs. And, of course, Merrifield has solidified the second base spot, after hitting .288 with 32 doubles and 34 stolen bases.
And now, with the prospect of the core group breaking up, another potential transition year in 2018 awaits Moore and manager Ned Yost, the Royals' all-time wins leader with 629. "I look forward to it," Yost said at season's end. "I look forward to the young players we have who could get a chance."
The Royals' 2018 season, the franchise's 50th, will be remembered as a transition year as the team began to lay the foundation for a rebuild. The Royals began the season with numerous veterans with expiring contracts, many of whom were dealt or released to make way for the next generation of young talent. Two big names from the Royals' back-to-back World Series' runs in 2014 and 2015 - closer Kelvin Herrera and third baseman Mike Moustakas - were dealt prior to the Trade Deadline. Other veterans, including Jon Jay and Lucas Duda, also were traded for prospects as general manager Dayton Moore stuck to his mission of restocking the farm system.
Despite the overall record, there were numerous bright spots in 2018. Super utility man Whit Merrifield led the Major Leagues in stolen bases (45) and hits (192). Mondesi emerged as the shortstop of the future as the Royals said good-bye to Alcides Escobar at the end of the season. Mondesi showed his dynamic talents in the field and at the plate, where he hit .276 with 14 home runs in just 75 games while also swiping 32 bags. O'Hearn, a rookie first baseman, socked 12 homers and 10 doubles in just 44 games. Dozier, who settled in at third base, hit 11 home runs and 19 doubles, mostly in the second half. Rookie right-hander Brad Keller, a Rule 5 Draft acquisition, emerged as the team's best starter, posting a 9-6 record with a 3.08 ERA in 41 games, 20 of those starts. Rookie right-hander Jorge Lopez, acquired from Milwaukee in the Moustakas trade, took a perfect game into the ninth late in the season in Minnesota - he lost the perfect game but still garnered the victory.
And it wasn't just the young players who performed well. Left fielder Alex Gordon nabbed his sixth Gold Glove Award, and added a Wilson Award as MLB's best defensive left fielder. Catcher Salvador Perez grabbed his fifth Gold Glove Award and added his second Silver Slugger Award of his career, ripping 27 home runs with 80 RBIs. Right-hander Jakob Junis, who figures to be near the top of the rotation in 2019, posted a 2.95 ERA over his final 10 starts. And closer Wily Peralta, after inheriting the closer's role in July, went a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities. In all, the Royals' strong finish and their exciting core of young talent created much optimism heading into 2019.
The 2019 season saw several individual accomplishments as the Royals continued to rebuild. While the club's young lineup gave fans a glance into the future, the end of the season was a reflection on the past as during the final week, the team honored manager Ned Yost, who announced his retirement effective Sept. 29 and the Glass Family, which announced that they would be selling the team.
On the field, there were plenty of individual highlights as outfielder Jorge Soler re-set the franchise's home run record, blasting 48 roundtrippers, which were 10 more than Mike Moustakas had during his record-setting year in 2017. Soler became the first Royal to lead the American League in home runs, while he finished second in the junior circuit with 117 RBI, the most by a KC player since the 2000 season.
Leadoff man Whit Merrifield also enjoyed a career-year, collecting a Major League-best 206 hits, which were also the highest total in 19 seasons. In doing so, Merrifield became just the second right-handed hitter in Major League history to lead the Majors in hits in consecutive years, along with Minnesota's Kirby Puckett in 1988-89. Merrifield opened the season by hitting in his first 11 games, which extended a streak from the previous year to a franchise record 31 games, topping George Brett's previous team record of 30 (in 1980). Whit also hit safely in a franchise-best 129 of his 162 games, establishing the Royals' high watermark and the most in the Major Leagues since Derek Jeter also hit in 129 games in 2012.
Merrifield was also one of three Kansas City players, along with Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi, to tie for the Major League lead with 10 triples, matching Arizona's Eduardo Escobar. In doing so, the Royals became the first team to have three different players tie for the Major League lead in any major stat category (Elias Sports Bureau) and the first club to have three players record at least 10 triples