By: Kurtis Seaboldt
There are some iconic numbers in the 50-year history of the Kansas City Royals. Three numbers have been retired by the team. But, what about the others? Who was the best #12? The best #30? The best #43? Well, I took it upon myself to find out. I applied only one condition. The players are judged only on how they played while wearing that number for the Royals. Here they are:
Legend: AS (All-Star Games), MVP (Most Valuable Player), CYA (Cy Young Award), ROY (Rookie of the Year), RHOF (Royals Hall of Fame), HOF (Hall of Fame)
46. Ryan Madson, P (2015) Yes, he allowed the HR that tied Game 6 against Toronto. But he came off injury and THREE YEARS of inactivity to post a 2.13 ERA and .963 WHIP in 68 appearances.
47. Johnny Cueto, P (2015) His brief regular-season stay was panic-inducing, to say the least. But he was brilliant in Game 5 against Houston and even more brilliant in Game 2 against the Mets. The Royals don’t win the World Series without him.
48. Joakim Soria, P (2007-11, 2016-17) AS-2. The Rule 5 acquisition quickly became one of the best closers in baseball. Jim Colborn had an 18-win season and threw a no-hitter in 1977 but Soria gets the win here.
49. Steve Crawford, P (1989) Not much at all for this one. Crawford’s 3-1 record and 2.83 ERA for a 92-win team in 1989 is enough.
50. Jose Rosado, P (1996-2000) AS-2. A fourth-place finish in the Rookie of the Year vote was followed by a pair of All-Star Game nods. More than good enough here.
51. Jason Vargas, P (2014-17) Among pitchers with at least 50 decisions for the Royals, Vargas has the highest career win percentage (.596). He led the AL in wins with 18 in 2017. In the end, Vargy threw the ball well.
52. Bruce Chen, P (2009-14) C’MON, CHEN! One of the more delightful reclamation projects in club history. Went 24-15 for a pair of 90-loss teams in 2010-11. Other notable: Mike Boddicker
53. Melky Cabrera, OF (2011,17) In his first season with the Royals, he had 201 hits, scored 102 runs, hit 44 doubles and 18 homers, drove in 87 and hit .305 with an .809 OPS. That’ll get it done.
54. Mike MacDougal, P (2001-06) AS-1. His lone All-Star nod would be enough to win this one. Buckling the knees of Albert Pujols, Frank Thomas and Barry Bonds in a two-month span is just gravy. Other notable: Ervin Santana
55. Kevin Appier, (1989-95) AS-1. RHOF. From 1990-95, only Roger Clemens was better in the AL. Won 18 games in 1993 and led the league in ERA at 2.56. Gil Meche also wore the number in an All-Star Game, but Ape was better.
56. Greg Holland, P (2010-15) AS-2. Holds the top two spots on the club’s single-season saves list and closed out both an ALDS and ALCS in a one-week span, saving all four wins against Baltimore. Brad Keller has a chance, but he has some work to do. Other notable: Brian McRae
57. Mike Magnante, P (1991-96) In a thin group, Mags wins just by hanging around. Glenn Sparkman has a shot.
58. Hipolito Pichardo, P (1992) As a rookie, he won 9 games with a 3.95 ERA. Good enough.
59. Felipe Paulino, P (2011-12) 7-7 with a 3.55 ERA was enough to hold off D.J. Carraso.
60. Hunter Dozier, INF (2016) He wore it for just 8 games but he’s the only player to wear the number for the Royals.
61. Kevin McCarthy, P (2016-current) He’s 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and shows promise. It was mildly tempting to give it to Bob Hegman, whose only MLB game came in 1985. In the first game of a doubleheader with Detroit, he played the ninth inning as a defensive replacement at second base, “hitting” in George Brett’s spot in the lineup. No one hit the ball to him. He’s the only player in the majors since at least the 1950s to have played in at least one game without batting, running the bases, getting a chance in the field or pitching to a batter. Remarkable.
62. Sam Gaviglio, P (2017) Yikes. Eight players have worn this uniform, three of them have career ERAs over 20 (Ryan Verdugo 32.40, Eric Stout 23.14, Aaron Brooks 20.57) By comparison, Gaviglio’s 3.00 in four appearances makes him look like April 2009 Greinke.
63. Josh Staumont, P (2019-current) His 3.72 ERA as a rookie in 2019 shows some promise despite the walks. He gets the nod over Yohan Pino, who put up a 3.26 ERA in seven appearances in 2015.
64. Matt Strahm, P (2016-17) I can’t believe you’re still reading this. But he was the best.
65. Jakob Junis, P (2017-current) As one of only two men to wear this number for the Royals, this is a pretty easy call. Sorry… *checks notes*… Josh Rupe.
66. Ryan O’Hearn, 1B (2018-current) Sorry, Roman Colon.
67. Francisley Bueno, P (2012-14) He was 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 56 games for KC. Muy Bueno.
68. Jake Newberry, P (2018-current) Sorry, Wilking Rodriguez.
69. Eric Skoglund, P (2017) Only player to ever wear this number. It’s one of three numbers to only have one player.
72. Meibrys Viloria, C (2018-current) Sorry, Enny Romero.
91. Hideo Nomo, P (2008) Somehow finished two of the three games he pitched for the Royals despite an ERA of 18.69.