This is the fourth article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Kansas City Royals. In this installment are the outfielders.
Although most of the Kansas City Royals outfielders fall short when compared to the corner infielders, especially Hall of Fame member and franchise icon George Brett, the club has several talented options to choose from when setting an all-time lineup. Right field is the weakest of the three spots, with no one starting for more than six years at the position.
The Best Outfielders in Kansas City Royals History
Honorable Mentions – David DeJesus played three of his eight seasons in left field (2006 and 08-09) but spent most of his time in center. He had more than 70 runs, 150 hits and 70 RBIs in each of the two later seasons and won the fielding title in 2009. DeJesus batted .294 with 227 runs, 461 hits, 33 home runs and 200 RBIs in 398 games.
Lonnie Smith found his way to contending teams throughout his 17-year career, winning three championships and playing in five World Series. Smith was a member of the Phillies team that beat the Royals in 1980 and helped the Cardinals defeat the Brewers two years later. He came to Kansas City just in time for the club’s 1985 title run, with Willie Wilson moving to center field so he could play in left.
Smith stole 40 bases during the regular season and three more in the playoffs as part of the “Whiteyball” Royals team that outhit and outran their opponents. He scored six runs, had 16 hits and five doubles and drove in five runs in 14 playoff games, with four of those RBIs coming in the World Series victory over St. Louis.
In three seasons with the Royals (1985-87), Smith batted .270 with 183 runs, 303 hits, 93 RBIs and 75 steals in 302 games. He moved on to the Braves and was part of their runs to the World Series in back-to-back years in 1991-92.
5. Andrew Benintendi – He began his career with the Red Sox, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 and winning the World Series the following year. He spent two seasons with the Royals (2021-22), winning a gold glove his first year and making the All-Star team in his second before getting traded to the Yankees. The 2016 MLB Futures Game participant won fielding titles in both seasons with Kansas City and batted .294 with 247 hits, 20 home runs and 112 RBIs in 227 games.
4. Lou Piniella – He had brief callups with the Orioles and Indians before getting a chance to start with the expansion Royals. He made the best of his time, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1969 after batting .282 with 11 home runs and 68 runs batted in. Piniella followed that with a career-high 88 RBIs the following year and earned his only All-Star selection in 1972, when he hit .312, set a career-high with 179 runs, led the American League with 33 doubles and drove in 72 runs.
“Sweet Lou” batted .286 with 734 hits, 127 doubles, 45 home runs and 348 RBIs in 770 games over five seasons with Kansas City (1969-73). He went to the World Series four times and won two titles in 11 years with the Yankees as a player. After retiring, he managed five teams for a total of 23 seasons, amassing a 1,835-1,713 record. Piniella led the Reds to a World Series championship in 1990 and was on the bench when the Mariners won a record-tying 116 games in 2001.
3. Vincent “Bo” Jackson – He was a two-sport star saw both of his careers end prematurely. Jackson earned just about every college football award a player could while he was a running back at Auburn, including the Heisman Trophy in 1985. The Buccaneers drafted him first overall the following year, but a pre-draft visit to the team facilities was not NCAA-approved (which he was told that it was), causing him to miss most of his final college baseball season.
Jackson went through with his promise, shunning Tampa Bay and leveraging his baseball skills to play for the Royals. Eventually, the Buccaneers traded him to the Raiders, and he decided to play both sports. Jackson may have been the best in using the media to cultivate his image in the pre-internet days, with his “Bo Knows” ad campaign giving him national notoriety.
Bo hit 20 or more home runs in four of his five seasons with the Royals (1986-90) and earned his only All-Star selection in 1989, when he set career highs with 86 runs, 132 hits, 32 home runs and 105 RBIs. In the All-Star Game, he snagged Pedro Guerrero‘s first-inning line drive, saving two runs, then he and Wade Boggs hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom half of the frame, marking the first time that happened in the history of the Midsummer Classic.
Jackson’s best highlight-reel event came in the NFL. Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth told the media he would stop the rookie, but during the game, Bo ran over Bosworth on his way to scoring one of his two touchdowns. He rushed for 221 yards against Seattle. He had another iconic moment in 1991, when he caught another line drive in deep left center at a full sprint, then stepped up the wall padding. He avoided injury on that play but suffered what would be a football career-ending hip injury during a routine tackle in a 1991 playoff game against the Bengals.
Jackson took most of the baseball season off and the Royals refused to pay him to sit on the disabled list and rehab his football injury, so they released him. He played 23 games in 1991 with the White Sox before having hip replacement surgery, which caused him to miss the following year. During his rehab, Jackson promised his mother he would come back and hit a home run for her. She passed away before he could return, but true to his word, he homered in his first at-bat bat back. He retired after spending the 1994 season with the Angels.
Bo totaled 278 runs, 460 hits, 109 home runs, 313 RBIs and 81 steals in 511 games with Kansas City, but his career had a Hall of Fame trajectory before the injury. He turned his sports popularity into television appearances, a 1991 Saturday morning cartoon show called ProStars (which featured Bo as well as Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky fighting crime, although none of the athletes actually voiced their cartoon counterparts) and a CBD pharmaceutical brand. Jackson also donated $170,000 to pay for the funeral expenses for the victims of the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
2. Alex Gordon – He spent his entire 14-year career in Kansas City (2007-20), converting from third base in 2010. From there, Gordon became one of the game’s most steady fielders, winning eight gold gloves and earning three All-Star selections. Although was not chosen for the 2011 All-Star Game, he had his best offensive season, amassing 185 hits and setting career highs with 101 runs, 23 home runs, 87 runs batted in, 17 stolen bases and a .303 average.
The following season, Gordon had a career-high 189 hits and smacked 51 doubles, which led the American League and is tied for second in team history. He played in the 2006 MLB Futures Game, won the Hutch Award in 2014, was selected as a Wilson Defensive Player of the Year three times and earned platinum gloves in 2014 and 2020.
In addition to 113 career steals, Gordon ranks third in franchise history in walks (684), fifth in doubles (357), home runs (190) and total bases (2,622), sixth in games (1,753), runs (867) and hits (1,643) and seventh in RBIs (749). He also holds one dubious distinction as the club’s all-time leader with 1,535 strikeouts. Gordon played in two World Series, helping the Royals win their first title in 30 years in 2015. He totaled 17 runs, 24 hits, 10 doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs in 31 career playoff games.
1. Willie Wilson – Although he played considerably more games in center field with the Royals (1,114 to 635), he had his best seasons as a left fielder. Wilson spent five seasons at the position (1978-82), stealing at least 30 bases each year, including a team-record and league-leading 83 in 1979 and 79 more (the second-best team mark) the following year.
In addition to the stolen bases, Wilson led the league and set career highs with 230 hits (a team record), 133 runs (second in team history) and 15 triples in 1980 while finishing fourth in the MVP voting and earning silver slugger and gold glove honors. Although he was held in check during the playoffs, he helped the Royals reach the World Series, where they lost to the Phillies and Wilson struck out 12 times in 26 at-bats.
Two years later, Wilson won his only batting title with a .332 mark and once again led the A. L. with 15 triples. He won another silver slugger that year and also earned his only All-Star selection at the position. Wilson batted .312 during his seasons in left field, amassing 430 runs, 785 hits, 52 triples, 13 home runs, 192 RBIs and 279 stolen bases.
Honorable Mentions – Tom Goodwin failed to reach rookie eligibility until his fourth season. When he finally did, he was a terror on the basepaths, stealing 150 bases in three-plus seasons with the Royals (1994-97). Goodwin earned Rookie of the Year votes after registering 50 stolen bases in 1995 and followed that up with 66, which is the third-highest single season mark in franchise history. In addition to his steals, he batted .281 with 203 runs, 386 hits and 85 RBIs in 375 games. Goodwin played with five other teams before retiring in 2004.
Jarrod Dyson was known for one thing during his 12-year baseball career … speed. He spent eight seasons with the Royals (2010-16 and ’21), stealing 25 or more bases five times. Dyson has 224 runs, 382 hits and 111 RBIs in 627 games with Kansas City, and he ranks fifth in franchise history with 184 stolen bases. In 19 career playoff games, he had three runs scored, two hits and four steals. Dyson went 0-for-3 with a run and a stolen bases in the 2015 World Series victory.
Michael A. Taylor played just two seasons with the Royals (2021-22), but he won a gold glove in his first campaign. Taylor was a 2014 MLB Futures Game participant and a member of the 2019 Nationals championship team. He had 107 runs, 223 hits, 21 home -9uns and 97 RBIs in 266 games with Kansas City before signing with Minnesota in 2023.
David DeJesus spent the majority of his eight seasons with the Royals (2003-10) in center and earned some Rookie of the Year votes in 2004. He had at least 150 hits in three straight seasons, and he set a career-high with 101 runs and led the league with 23 hit by pitches in 2007. DeJesus is tied for seventh in franchise history with 45 triples and is tied for tenth with a .289 average. He also has 501 runs, 971 hits, 187 doubles, 61 home runs and 390 RBIs in 876 games. DeJesus played with five teams over his final five years before retiring after the 2015 season.
5. Lorenzo Cain – He started his career with the Brewers, then spent seven seasons with the Royals (2011-16) before going back to Milwaukee. Cain had by far his best season in the blue, white and gold in 2015, when he finished third in the MVP race and earned his first All-Star selection after batting .307 with 169 hits, 28 stolen bases and career-high totals of 101 runs, 34 doubles, 16 home runs and 72 runs batted in.
Cain had 383 runs, 765 hits, 140 doubles, 56 home runs and 308 RBIs in 713 games, and he is tied for tenth in franchise history with a .289 average. He was named the MVP of the 2014 ALCS after batting .533 (8-for-15) with five runs, two doubles, an RBI and a stolen base. The three-time Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award winner totaled 24 runs, 36 hits, seven doubles, one home run, 19 RBIs and eight steals in 31 postseason games with Kansas City.
4. Johnny Damon – Before he took on the “Captain Caveman” bearded look and helped the Red Sox end their championship drought or went all prim and proper with the Yankees, he spent the first six seasons with the Royals (1995-2000). Damon’s best season with Kansas City was his last. He had his third straight season with more than 100 runs scored, and his 136 both led the league and set a team record. He also had a league-leading 46 stolen bases to go with 214 hits (third-most in team history), a .327 average and 42 doubles (both career highs), 10 triples, 16 home runs and 88 runs batted in.
Damon ranks sixth in franchise history with 47 triples, eighth with a .292 average and tenth with 156 steals. He totaled 504 runs, 894 hits, 156 doubles, 65 homers and 352 RBIs in 803 games with the Royals. In addition to his 2004 title with Boston, Damon also helped New York win a championship in 2009. He also played with the Athletics, Tigers, Rays and Indians before retiring in 2012.
3. Carlos Beltran – He took over right where Damon left off, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 1999 and posted 100 runs, 160 hits, 20 home runs, 100 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in four of his seven seasons with Kansas City (1998-2004). Beltran earned his only All-Star selection in 2004 but his attitude and contract demands caused him to be sent to the Astros as part of a three-team deal in late June that included the Athletics and netted the Royals John Buck and Mark Teahen.
Beltran is tied for seventh in franchise history with 45 triples and sits eighth with 164 stolen bases. He batted .287 with 546 runs, 899 hits, 156 doubles, 123 home runs, 516 RBIs and 1,514 total bases in 795 games.
After spending time with the Astros, Mets, Giants, Cardinals, Yankees and Rangers, the nine-time All-Star, three-time gold glove winner and two-time silver slugger returned to Houston for his final season in 2017. Beltran played a small part on the field in the team’s run to a title, but he allegedly played a big part in their sign-stealing scheme and was stepped down as Mets manager before the 2020 season following the league’s investigation into the scandal.
2. Willie Wilson – He spent 15 years with the Royals (1976-90), with most of his starts coming in center field. Wilson led the league in triples five times during that time, setting a team record with 21 in 1985 and posting 15 in three other seasons, giving him four of the top five spots on the team’s single season list. In addition to the triples, he also hit 13 inside-the-park home runs.
Overall, Wilson stole at least 30 bases 11 times, had at least 150 hits in a season nine times, hit .300 or better five times and scored more than 100 runs twice. He also won the batting title in 1982 and earned two All-Star selections, two silver sluggers and a gold glove.
Wilson is the all-time franchise leader with 612 stolen bases, and he ranks second in triples (133), third in runs (1,060), fourth in hits (1,968) and strikeouts (990), fifth in games (1,787), sixth in total bases (2,595), ninth in doubles (241) and tied for tenth in batting average (.289) to go with 40 home runs and 509 runs batted in.
He rebounded from a poor performance in the 1980 World Series by batting .367 (11-for-30) with two runs scored, three RBIs and three stolen bases in Kansas City’s championship victory over St. Louis in 1985. Wilson appeared in 32 playoff games with the Royals, totaling 12 runs, 35 hits, one homer, 10 RBIs and six steals.
Wilson’s biggest issue was his cocaine usage, which occurred in 1982 but, according to Wilson, stopped before the following season. However, his voice was on a wiretap of his dealer, leading to him and several other players were under investigation. Wilson served a 90-day jail sentence in between the 1983-84 seasons and a year-long suspension was shortened to 33 games.
After spending two seasons with the Athletics and two more with the Cubs, Wilson retired in 1994. He had a string of bad investments and failed coaching jobs and began using cocaine once again. Wilson’s drug and money issues caused him to auction off most of his baseball memorabilia, including his World Series ring (although his friends eventually gifted him with a new one after he got clean). In recent years, Wilson has run a youth baseball camp in New Jersey, worked with a Royals youth baseball clinic and helped with the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
1. Amos Otis – His numbers are on par with Wilson’s overall, but he has the advantage of playing center field throughout his entire 14-year career with Kansas City (1970-83). Otis came to the Royals from the Mets and promptly earned All-Star selections in his first four seasons with his new team. He led the league in doubles twice and topped the A. L. with 52 steals in 1971.
Otis scored 80 or more runs eight times, with a high of 100 in 1979. He also had at least 150 hits seven times, stole 30 or more bases in five seasons, drove in 80 or more runs four times and topped the .300 mark twice. The three-time gold glove winner batted .280 and ranks second in franchise history in runs (1,074), stolen bases (340), walks (739) and total bases (3,051), third in games (1,891), hits (1,977), triples (65) and RBIs (992), fourth in doubles (365) and home runs (193) and fifth in strikeouts (953).
“A. O.” appeared in 22 career playoff games, totaling nine runs, 23 hits, six doubles, three home runs, 11 RBIs and eight steals. The Royals may have lost the 1980 World Series to the Phillies, but Otis certainly was not to blame. He batted .478 in the series (11-for-23) with four runs, three homers and seven RBIs. After leaving Kansas City due to a contract dispute, Otis played 40 games with Pittsburgh in 1984, but his skills were clearly declining, and he retired after the season. He joined pitcher Steve Busby as the first two players inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1986.
5. Pat Sheridan – After a three-game call-up, he spent 1982 in the minor leagues and injured. He had his best season in 1984, when he set career highs with a .283 average, 64 runs, 136 hits, 24 doubles, 53 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases. Sheridan batted .267 with 273 runs, 18 home runs and 106 RBIs in 328 games over four seasons (1981 and 83-85). He appeared in 15 postseason games with the Royals, amassing five runs, seven hits two home runs and four RBIs. Sheridan went 4-for-18 with two doubles and an RBI in the 1985 World Series.
4. Jeff Francoeur – The Royals were one of eight teams he played for during his 12-year career and although he only was in Kansas City for three seasons (2011-13), he was a fan favorite due to his power-hitting and strong outfield arm. Francoeur had his best year with the Royals in 2011, when he hit .285 with 20 home runs, 87 runs batted in and 22 stolen bases.
“Frenchy” led the league with 19 outfield assists in 2012, but was hitting just .208 the following year when he was released by the Royals in early July. He had 341 hits, 39 homers and 149 RBIs in 260 games. In addition to his accolades with Kansas City, Francoeur won a gold glove with Atlanta in 2007 and played with Texas during their World Series loss to San Francisco in 2010.
3. Danny Tartabull – He came to the Royals from the Mariners and had at least 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in three of his five seasons (1987-91). His production fell off a bit in 1989 and he missed almost half of the following year after tearing a muscle in his right leg. Tartabull returned in 1991 to earn his only All-Star selection after batting a career-best .316 with 31 homers and 100 RBIs and leading the league with a .593 slugging percentage.
Tartabull ranks ninth in franchise history with a .290 average, and he totaled 348 runs, 674 hits, 141 doubles, 124 home runs and 425 RBIs in 657 games. He had three good seasons with the Yankees and another with the White Sox, and he retired after spending 1997 with the Phillies.
2. Al Cowens – Although he never made the All-Star team, he had a solid 13-year major league career spent mostly with the Royals and Mariners. With Kansas City, he had his best season in 1977, when he finished second in the MVP voting after playing in every game and setting career highs with a .312 average, 98 runs, 189 hits, 14 triples, 23 home runs and 112 runs batted in. Cowens earned his only gold glove that year after leading all American League right fielders with 14 assists.
Cowens ranks ninth in franchise history with 44 triples, and he also batted .282 with 373 runs, 784 hits, 117 doubles, 45 homers, 374 RBIs and 80 stolen bases in 812 games over six seasons (1974-79). He helped the Royals get to the ALCS three straight years, totaling seven runs, 11 hits, one home run, six RBIs and two steals in 14 games.
1. Jermaine Dye – He was traded after his rookie season with the Braves and spent the next five years with the Royals (1997-2001). Dye had back-to-back seasons with 90 runs, 175 hits, 40 doubles, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs, including 2000, when he earned his first All-Star selection and amassed 337 total bases, which is tied for second in team history.
While he was a solid run producer, he also showed flashes in the field, leading A. L. right fielders with 362 putouts and 17 assists in 1999 and winning his only gold glove the following year. Overall, Dye batted .284 with 303 runs, 584 hits, 118 doubles, 85 home runs and 329 RBIs in 547 games. Although he never appeared in a postseason game with the Royals, he earned World Series MVP honors after hitting .438 (7-for-16) with the White Sox in 2005.
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
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