This is the third article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Kansas City Royals. In this installment are second basemen and shortstops.
Although there are no Hall of Famers in this article, the list of best Kansas City Royals middle infielders includes several defensive standouts. Gold gloves and fielding titles abound, especially from players who started during the team’s championship seasons.
The Best Second Basemen and Shortstops in Kansas City Royals History
Honorable Mention – Carlos Febles spent his entire six-year career with the Royals (1998-2003), totaling 255 runs, 414 hits, 24 home runs and 146 RBIs in 506 games. His best season was 1999, when he batted .256 and set career highs with 71 runs, 116 hits, 22 doubles, nine triples, 10 home runs, 53 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases.
5. Mark Grudzielanek – He made his only All-Star appearance with the Expos in 1996 and he played for the Dodgers, Cubs and Cardinals before coming to the Royals for three seasons near the end of his career (2006-08). Grudzielanek’s best season in Kansas City was his first, when he won a gold glove and hit .297 with 85 runs, 163 hits and 52 runs batted in.
Overall, he batted .300 with 399 hits, 16 home runs and 127 RBIs in 336 games. Grudzielanek became a free agent after the 2008 season but didn’t play again in the majors until two years later, when he appeared in 30 games with the Indians. He spent five years as a coach, manager and instructor in the Diamondbacks and White Sox organizations.
4. Jose Offerman – He spent three seasons with Kansas City (1996-98) and his best season with the club was his last, when he led the league with a career-best 13 triples, set career highs with 191 hits, 45 steals and a .315 average. Offerman earned All-Star selections on either side of his Royals tenure (1995 with the Dodgers and 1999 with the Red Sox). He is the all-time franchise leader with a .306 average and has 246 runs, 487 hits, 14 home runs and 152 RBIs in 415 games.
3. Whit Merrifield – The versatile starter made the All-Star team twice during his seven-year run in Kansas City (2016-22). Merrifield led the American League in stolen bases three times, hits twice and doubles and triples once each. In his 2019 All-Star Season, he led the League with 206 hits and 10 triples, set a career-high with 105 runs, and posted a .302 average, 16 home runs, 74 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases.
“Two-Hit Whit” played the majority of his games at second base but also spent considerable time at each outfield position and was the club’s full-time starter in right field in 2020. He ranks seventh in franchise history with 174 steals and batted .286 with 503 runs, 1,001 hits, 215 doubles, 74 homers and 387 RBIs in 863 games. Merrifield was sent to the Blue Jays at the 2022 trade deadline and was an All-Star in his first full season with Toronto in 2023.
2. Octavio “Cookie” Rojas – He was a solid player for the Phillies, earning one All-Star selection in seven seasons, but he became an everyday contributor for the Royals after being traded by the cross-state Cardinals in 1970. Rojas was selected to the All-Star Game in his first four full seasons with Kansas City and won two fielding titles in eight years (1970-77). He was also versatile enough to play every position on the field during his career (including pitcher for one game with the Phillies in 1967).
Rojas had his best season in 1973, when he hit .276, set a career-high with 69 runs batted in and added 77 runs, 152 hits and 18 stolen bases. Overall, he batted .268 with 323 runs, 824 hits, 139 doubles, 25 home runs and 332 RBIs in 880 games. Rojas went 4-for-13 (.308) with two runs, an RBI and two steals in a pair of ALCS losses to the Yankees in 1976-77.
1. Frank White – Like fellow star second baseman Lou Whitaker, White spent his entire career with one team, donning the Royals uniform for 18 seasons (1973-90). During that time, the graduate of owner Ewing Kauffman’s famed Royals Baseball Academy was selected to five All-Star teams and won eight gold gloves, including six in a row from 1977-82.
White’s best season offensively was 1986, when he set career highs with 76 runs, 22 home runs, 84 runs batted in and 263 total bases to go with a .272 average, 154 hits and 37 doubles. He ranks second in franchise history in games (2.342) and hits (2,066), third in doubles (407), strikeouts (1,035) and total bases (3,009), fourth in runs (912) and RBIs (886), fifth in triples (58), sixth in stolen bases (178), seventh in home runs (160) and ninth in walks (412).
White was the MVP of the 1980 ALCS after hitting .545 (6-for-11) with three runs scored, one home runs and three RBIs. In the 1985 World Series victory, White had seven hits, four runs, three doubles, one home runs and six runs batted in. In 42 career postseason games, White had 14 runs, 32 hits, two homers and 16 RBIs. After his playing career ended, he became a coach for the Red Sox and Royals and went into politics. White was named Jackson County Executive in 2016.
Honorable Mentions – Kurt Stillwell formed a solid infield with Seitzer, White and Brett during his four-year run with the Royals (1987-91). Stillwell’s best season was 1989, when he was named an All-Star, drove in 53 runs and set career highs with 63 runs scored and 10 home runs. He had 219 runs, 464 hits, 100 doubles, 26 homers ad 209 RBIs in 524 games.
Adalberto Mondesi was a 2015 MLB Futures Game participant and went on to spent seven seasons with Kansas City (2016-22). He led the league with 10 triples in 2019 and had three straight seasons with 20 stolen bases, including a league-best 24 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Mondesi totaled 180 runs, 311 hits, 38 home runs, 157 runs batted in and 133 steals in 358 games and won a championship ring with the 2015 Royals (he struck out in his only World Series at-bat). He was traded to the Red Sox in 2023 but missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in April.
5. Angel Berroa – He played in two MLB Futures Games (in 2001 and ’02) and was with Kansas City for seven seasons (2001-07). Berroa was named the 2003 Rookie of the Year after amassing 163 hits and setting career highs with a .287 average, 92 runs, 28 doubles, seven triples, 17 home runs, 73 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases. Overall, he batted .263 with 293 runs, 606 hits, 103 doubles, 45 homers and 235 RBIs in 627 games. Berroa played one season with the Dodgers and split 2009 between the Yankees and Mets, marking his last big-league experience.
4. U. L. Washington – Like White, he attended the Royals Baseball Academy after he got a tryout thanks to a good word from his older brother, who was an usher at Royals Stadium. While he was in the minor leagues, Washington had the house he was renting nearly get destroyed by a tornado, became a switch-hitter and broke his left fibula when he tried to leap over a first baseman trying to beat out slow roller.
Washington spent eight seasons with Kansas City (1977-84), setting career highs in 1982 with a .286 average, 10 home runs and 60 runs batted in, then stealing 40 bases the following year. He was one of several players who got in trouble for cocaine use (with others such as Willie Aikens and Willie Wilson serving jail time). Washington had 319 runs, 625 hits, 26 homers, 228 RBIs and 120 stolen bases in 757 games. He batted .273 (6-for-22) with a run scored and two RBIs in the 1980 World Series.
Washington was traded to the Expos before the 1985 season, but he missed time due to an injured hamstring. He spent the next two seasons with the Pirates, mostly in the minors before calling it a career. Pittsburgh hired Washington to coach their Class A team in Welland, Ontario, in 1989. The team had a forgettable year, but Washington allowed a young infielder named Tim Wakefield a chance to convert to pitcher and learn the knuckleball. Washington spent 26 seasons as a minor league coach with the Pirates, Royals, Dodgers, Twins and finally the Red Sox, where he won three titles from 2003 until his retirement in 2014.
3. Bobby Witt Jr. – The 2021 MLB Futures Game participant is Kansas City’s current starter at the position. The son of a longtime major league pitcher, Witt finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 after hitting .254 with 20 home runs, 80 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases. The 23-year-old followed that up by leading the league with 11 triples to go with a .276 average, 97 runs, 177 hits, 30 homers, 96 RBIs, 49 steals and 317 total bases. If this upward trend continues, look for Witt’s trophy case to get full in a hurry.
2. Alcides Escobar – He started his career with the Brewers and played in two MLB Futures Games while in their organization (2007 and ’09). Escobar then spent eight seasons with the Royals (2011-18), earning an All-Star selection and a gold glove in 2015. That season, he set a career-high with 76 runs along with 157 hits, 47 RBIs and 17 steals. His best season was 2012, when he posted career bests with a .293 average, 177 hits and 35 steals.
“Magic” had 526 runs, 209 doubles, 36 home runs and 390 RBIs, and he ranks ninth in franchise history in stolen bases (160), tied for ninth in games (1,245) and tenth in hits (1,208) and triples (43). The light-hitting infielder broke out in the 2015 playoffs, earning the ALCS MVP award after batting .478 (11-for-23) with six runs and five RBIs. Escobar totaled 21 runs, 42 hits, nine doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs in 31 career postseason games.
Escobar became a free agent after his Royals tenure but was released by both the Orioles and White Sox in 2019. He spent a year with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in Japan in 2020 and played a combined 115 games in two seasons with the Nationals. Escobar spent 2023 in the Mexican League, first with Leones de Yucatan and then Acereros de Monclova.
1. Freddie Patek – Although he was the smallest player of his era (5-foot-5 and 150 pounds), he proved he could hang with the best in the big leagues. Patek was struggling to find footing in Pittsburgh in his first three years, before he was acquired in a six-player trade after the 1970 season. The Royals put him in the leadoff spot and allowed him to run when he got on base, and he earned three All-Star selections in nine seasons (1971-79).
Patek stole 30 or more bases eight straight years, pilfering 51 bases in 1976 and leading the league with 53 the following season. He also led the American League with 11 triples in 1971 and topped shortstops in double plays converted three straight years.
“The Flea” ranks third in franchise history in stolen bases (336), eight in walks (413), ninth in runs (571) and tied for ninth in games (1,245) to go with 1,036 hits, 182 doubles, 41 triples, 38 home runs and 382 runs batted in. He appeared in the Royals’ three straight ALCS losses to the Yankees, totaling eight runs, 15 hits, five doubles, a home run and 11 RBIs in 14 games. Patek spent his final two years with the Angels before retiring in 1981.
Patek was a color analyst for NBC’s Game of the Week as well as for White Sox and Rangers games for four years. He owned Grandy’s homestyle cooking restaurants until the company went under in the early 1990s, and he was a minor league coach for the Brewers in 1992 before a car accident paralyzed his 20-year-old daughter. After a long depression following her death, Patek started a foundation to raise money to help with spinal cord injuries and spent more than 30 years coaching American Legion baseball.
Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops
Kansas City Royals Outfielders – coming soon
Kansas City Royals Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Houston Astros
A look back at the Detroit Tigers
A look back at the Colorado Rockies
A look back at the Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers