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Royals’ Top 5 third basemen: Flanagan’s take

@FlannyMLB
April 13, 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 … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Jeffrey Flanagan’s ranking of the Top 5 third basemen in Royals history. Next week: Shortstops.

1. George Brett, 1973-93_
Key fact: First-ballot Hall of Famer_

As if there was any doubt who is No. 1. Brett not only was the best third baseman in Royals history, he was one of the best in MLB history.

As the late Royals broadcaster Fred White once said, "I think when George goes to heaven, there will be Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and a few of the really, really great ones all hanging around together, and one of 'em will say, 'Hey, that's George Brett.'"

Royals' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B

Brett, now the Royals' vice president of baseball operations, has too many accomplishments to completely list, but here are a few:

• 3,154 hits
• Only player to have batting titles in three decades (1976, '80, '90)
• 13 All-Star Games
• Gold Glove (1985)
• American League Most Valuable Player Award (1980, hit .390)
• First player with career totals of more than 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, 600 doubles, 100 triples and 200 stolen bases.
Royals Hall of Fame, Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

"If God had him no balls and two strikes, he'd still get a hit,” the late American League umpire Steve Palermo once said.

Even a spokesman for the Missouri Drivers License Bureau once quipped on why they waived an eye test for Brett, “If he can hit over .350, we figured he could see.”

2. Mike Moustakas, 2011-18
Key fact: Club-record five home runs in the 2014 postseason

OK, so having “Moose” ranked this high arguably suggests recency bias and certainly would appear based on sentimentality. Guilty as charged.

Moustakas’ .736 OPS in eight seasons with Kansas City isn’t going to wow anyone, nor will it impress anyone from the Joe Randa or Kevin Seitzer fan clubs.

But Moustakas gets the nod here because we have to recognize his postseason contributions, as well as his temporary holding of the single-season franchise home run record. Simply put, he became a big-moment player. In 2014, he became Mr. October.

And some of those moments included his defense, which some of the soon-to-be-antiquated defensive metrics (that are being replaced by Statcast’s new infielder metrics) deemed poor.

Moustakas, who made only two errors in 31 postseason games for Kansas City, will be best remembered defensively for the spectacular catch he made in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the 2014 AL Championship Series against Baltimore, diving head-first into a field suite.

Two of Moustakas’ five postseason jacks in 2014 were huge as well. He won Game 1 of the AL Division Series over the Angels in the 11th inning with a home run, and his two-run shot in the 10th inning of Game 1 of the ALCS helped seal a win over the Orioles.

And then there was Moose hitting 38 home runs in 2017, breaking Steve Balboni’s 32-year-old record of 36 (Jorge Soler set a new mark with 48 last year).

3. Joe Randa, 1995-96, '99-2004
Key fact: 197 hits in 1999

Randa, affectionately known as “The Joker” because he looked like he possessed a permanent grin at the plate, was a steady and solid player during his second stint with the Royals.

Drafted by the Royals in 1991, Randa was part of a trade in ’96 to the Pirates that returned Jay Bell and Jeff King. His journey also included being picked by the D-backs in the expansion draft, being traded to the Tigers, then to the Mets, then back to the Royals.

In eight seasons with the Royals, Randa hit .288 with a .768 OPS. He benefited somewhat from the moved-in fences at Kauffman Stadium and hit 79 home runs during his second stint with the Royals. He was an underrated defender, too.

4. Kevin Seitzer, 1986-91
Key facts: One All-Star Game, .380 on-base percentage with K.C.

Seitzer burst onto the scene in 1987, his first full season, with an AL-leading 207 hits. He batted .323 with 33 doubles, eight triples, 15 home runs and 83 RBIs. All of that was good enough to finish second in the AL Rookie of the Year Award balloting behind some guy named Mark McGwire.

Seitzer hit .304 with a .794 OPS the next season, though his career in Kansas City began to slowly fade before he was released on his birthday during 1992 Spring Training.

5. Gary Gaetti, 1993-95
Key fact: 35 home runs for K.C. in 1995

Gaetti played three seasons with the Royals, but he showed he had not lost his power stroke from his glory days with the Twins, hitting 61 home runs and 60 doubles in that time. Gaetti was a key part of the 1994 team that won 14 in a row at one point and seemed poised as a postseason contender before the players’ strike hit in August. What could have been.

Honorable mention
Paul Schaal, 1969-74: Forever known as the man that George Brett replaced, Schaal had a .728 OPS in six years in Kansas City. He did struggle defensively at times, leading the AL in errors in '71 with 28 and '73 with 30.

Dean Palmer, 1997-98: Mostly a blip in Royals history, Palmer did have one memorable season, hitting 34 home runs with 119 RBIs in '98.

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