A Kansas City Royals flag in the stands

A Kansas City Royals flag in the stands (Photo by Briana Tozour on Unsplash)

Kansas City is known for its blue-collar midwestern vibes, amazing barbecue, and passionate sports fans that love their hometown teams. The Chiefs and Royals run the Kansas City professional sports scene, and both organizations have brought home championships in recent years. With all the love for Kansas City teams, we’re excited to be breaking down the best Royals players of all time. One thing is for sure, the Royals have had some amazing athletes come through their organization over the years. 

And speaking of athletes coming up through the ranks in an organization, a recent study found that sports fans prefer teams comprised of drafted, homegrown players over those built through free agency. Researchers at the University of Kansas questioned over 1,500 Americans and found that people overwhelmingly want to cheer for teams comprised of drafted players and ‘homegrown’ talent over those teams built ‘overnight’ through big free agents and hefty contracts.

As a sports fan, cheering on your hometown team is a lot of fun, especially when you’ve witnessed the growth of your favorite players along the way. But, the benefits of watching your favorite sports team are greater than you might think. Scientists at Anglia Ruskin University say that watching live sporting events actually improves well-being and can help reduce feelings of loneliness. Researchers surveyed more than 7,000 adults to discover that sports fans report a higher quality of life, especially after having recently watched a game in person. Certainly, a great reason to get out to the ballpark in Kansas City right away.

So, who makes up the most legendary Kansas City greats? StudyFinds did the digging, consulting 10 sports websites in an effort to bring you the consensus best Royals players of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently listed Royals ballplayers from across these sites. See one we missed? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

The List: Best Royals Players of All Time, According to Experts

1. George Brett (1973-1993)

Easily topping the list of the best Royals players of all time is legendary third baseman, George Brett. During his time in a Kansas City Royals uniform, George Brett accomplished just about everything possible and he truly deserves his place at the top. “Far and away, Brett is the greatest player in Royals history. Brett made 13 All-Star teams during a 21-year career spent exclusively with the Royals. Brett won three batting titles (1976, 1980 & 1990), three Silver Slugger Awards (1980, 1985 & 1988), a Gold Glove (1985) and an American League MVP (1980), en route to cementing his place as one of the greatest third basemen in MLB history. The Royals retired Brett’s No. 5 in 1994, five years before he would become the first player to wear the franchise’s cap on his Hall of Fame plaque,” explains Audacy

An MVP, three Silver Slugger Awards, and three batting titles all help make the case for George Brett as the best Royals player in history. Brett also spent his entire career in a Royals uniform, furthering his legacy. “Brett is unanimously the best Royal ever and is one of the best third basemen in MLB history. He compiled over 3,000 hits, over 300 home runs and hit over .300 in his career and also added over 200 stolen bases as well. The former El Segundo high star was selected to 13 All-Star games, and won an MVP and gold glove for his efforts. In 1999, he was elected in the MLB Hall of Fame,” adds Bleacher Report

George Brett
(“George Brett” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

George Brett was a perennial MLB all-star and he’s widely regarded as one of the best third basemen in the history of professional baseball. If that’s not saying enough, just take a closer look at some of his best seasons and career milestones. 

“In 1976, Brett attended his first All-Star game and would continue to represent the Royals at the mid-summer classic for the following twelve seasons. In 1980, Brett flirted with .400 but fell short, hitting .390 on the year en route to his first of three Silver Sluggers and his lone MVP. He added a Gold Glove to his collection in 1985. Brett won his third batting title in 1990 at the age of 37, making him the first player to win titles in three different decades. He is one of only four players to retire with 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a lifetime .300 batting average. Brett was a perennial postseason participant with the club that made it to their first two World Series with him at third. Brett was his usual stellar self in October, batting .337 in the postseason and .373 in the Fall Classic throughout his career,” furthers Pitcher List

2. Bret Saberhagen (1984-1991)

Next up on the list of the best Royals players of all time is none other than legendary starting pitcher, Bret Saberhagen. Saberhagen was the Royals’ ace pitcher during their historic 1985 World Series title run, and he was on top of his game during that series, too. 

“Bret Saberhagen debuted in 1984 when he was only 20 and had a fine first season. He followed up his rookie year by winning 20 games over 235 innings with a 2.87 ERA and a league-leading 2.89 FIP and 1.06 WHIP. These stats earned Saberhagen his first Cy Young award, and he didn’t stop there. After a rough ALCS, Saberhagen threw two complete games in the World Series, allowing only one run in his 18 innings, and took home series MVP honors. The 21-year-old Saberhagen probably didn’t imagine at the time it would be the last time he’d see the playoffs for a decade,” explains Pitcher List

Saberhagen was a force on the mound for the Kansas City Royals of the 1980s. Still, Bret Saberhagen accomplished a lot in only a few seasons with the Royals, and he’s considered one of the best pitchers in franchise history

“It took Saberhagen only eight seasons in Kansas City to win two American League Cy Young Awards (1985 & 1989). In addition to capturing his first Cy Young Award in 1985, Saberhagen was also named World Series MVP after pitching two complete games in the Fall Classic. Saberhagen — who made two All-Star teams with the Royals — is the franchise’s all-time leader in WHIP (1.134),” adds Audacy

The Kansas City Royals have had some talented pitchers come through the organization, but Saberhagen is considered the best for many reasons. The Royals won the ‘85 World Series, which was the franchise’s first and only championship until the team won it again in the mid-2010s. That drought would have been much longer had Saberhagen not pitched for the club in the ’80s. 

“Saberhagen won two Cy Young Awards with the Royals, one in 1985 and the other in 1989. He was the main reason why the Royals won the 1985 World Series and he is the best Starting Pitcher in Royals history,” furthers The Grueling Truth

3. Salvador Perez (2011-Present)

Speaking of the Royals teams of the mid-2010s, this player is the current star of the franchise – Salvador Perez. It’s rare to include a current player on the list of the best players of all time for any franchise, but Salvador Perez is easily the best catcher in Royals franchise history, and he was one of the driving forces behind the Royals’ 2015 World Series title. 

Salvador Perez (“Salvador Perez” by Minda Haas Kuhlmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

“He debuted for Kansas City in August 2011 and, by 2013, was the team’s primary catcher. Perez won his first of five Gold Gloves that year and represented the Royals at the All-Star game for the first of seven times. In 2016, he took home his first of four Silver Sluggers, but his best offensive season was in 2021 when he led the AL with 48 HRs and 121 RBI. ‘Salvy’ was behind the plate for the Royals in their back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014 and 2015. He was an offensive force in both series, particularly in the team’s victory in 2015, when he was named World Series MVP,” explains Pitcher List

Undoubtedly, Perez should get some Hall of Fame consideration, and when it’s all said and done, ‘Salvy’ could very well be in the running for one of the best catchers in MLB history. Perez is a Royals player through and through, and he’s absolutely beloved by the fans of Kansas City. 

“One of the best catchers of his era, Perez is a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner. In 2021 — his age-31 season — Perez led the American League with 48 home runs and 121 RBIs, with his home run total setting a new single-season mark among all catchers in MLB history. He added that honor to his 2015 World Series MVP, which he won after hitting .364 against the New York Mets. Perez is still playing at a very high level, and with a few more productive seasons, figures to draw serious Hall of Fame consideration once his career is concluded,“ writes Audacy

So, Perez has a World Series MVP, won five Gold Glove Awards, and he has the record for the most home runs in a season by a catcher. If these stats don’t draw Hall of Fame votes, then perhaps that process needs to be reevaluated. 

“The only contemporary player on this list, catcher Salvador Perez has shown his worth to the club time and again since his debut in 2011. The Venezuelan has earned five Golden Glove Awards and seven All-Star appearances and led the league in home runs and RBIs in 2021. Over his 11-odd years in baseball, Perez has hit 223 home runs, ranking second among all-time Kansas City Royals batters. A free agent in 2026, the Royals will not be the same without him,” adds Sportskeeda

4. Frank White (1973-1990)

Frank White played second base and shortstop over the course of his career, and although he got off to a rough start with his bat, White rebounded to become one of the most proficient hitters in Royals franchise history. “When Frank White hit .222 with one home run in his first two seasons with the Kansas City Royals in the mid-1970s, some began to think his days on the starting lineup were numbered. Little did they know White would turn out to be one of the most consistent hitters in Royals history,” writes Sportskeeda

And that’s exactly what Frank White did as he played at a consistently high level for the next decade-plus. However, White was best known for his defensive prowess. “Frank White was a phenomenal defender and hitter for the Royals in the 1970s and 80s. White is the third member of the 1985 championship team, playing all eighteen of his MLB seasons in Kansas City from 1973-1990. A terrrific defensive player, White won eight Gold Gloves (1977-1982, 1986, 1987) in addition to making five All-Star teams (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986) and winning a 1986 Silver Slugger Award. His 1986 season was certainly his best season, when he won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award, and made the All-Star team while batting .272 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs,” explains Rookie Road

Still, Frank White continued to get better, and as the experts explain, he’s one of the most underrated second basemen in history. White’s career overlapped with George Brett’s and Bret Saberhagen’s, so the all-star didn’t receive as much praise as he probably should have. Quietly, White continued to move up the Royals leaderboards until he retired. His consistent play landed him near the top of some impressive all-time franchise statistics. 

“White is one of the most underrated second basemen in MLB history. White won eight gold gloves in his KC career and was maybe the best defensive player in Royals history. White also played in five All-Star games and is second all-time in Royals history with 2,006 hits,” furthers The Grueling Truth

5. Amos Otis (1970-1983)

For 14 seasons, Amos Otis roamed centerfield for the Kansas City Royals, and he was nothing short of stellar. Otis is considered the best centerfielder in Royals history, and he’s top five in several important offensive categories as well. 

“A five-time All-Star, Otis led the American League in doubles twice (1970 & 1976) during his 14 years in Kansas City, also pacing the junior circuit with 52 stolen bases in 1971. Otis managed to win three Gold Glove Awards as a Royal, and is in the top four in franchise history in terms of fWAR (42.0), offensive WAR (49.2), hits (1,977), doubles (365), triples (65), home runs (193), total bases (3,051) and runs scored (1,074),” explains Audacy

Unlike most of the other players on the list, Otis wasn’t drafted by the Royals and the team traded for him. The Mets traded Otis to the Royals after 1969 and the all-timer proved to be a great addition to the Royals roster. Otis possessed the rare combination of speed and power, which helped him stretch singles into doubles and consistently put himself in scoring position. 

“Otis began his career with the Mets, but New York traded him to the Royals after his second season in 1969. The Royals gave Otis the opportunity to start, and he excelled from the get-go, making his first of five All-Star games in his first season with the club. Otis led the league in stolen bases in 1971 and led the AL in doubles twice. He was an excellent all-around talent and one of the cornerstone players of five of the Royals’ playoff teams during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Otis raised his game in the postseason, especially in the Royals’ first World Series, when he hit .478 with three HRs and seven RBI in the loss to the Phillies,” adds Pitcher List

Did we mention that Otis was fast? As a centerfielder, Otis possessed the speed necessary for chasing down deep fly balls. As a baserunner, Otis was always a threat to swipe a base or two. These tools made Amos Otis a perfect fit for the Royals’ ‘small-ball’ offensive strategy

“Otis fit the small ball and speed mentality that Kansas City was preaching. His quickness always made him a threat to steal a base. Five times he would swipe 30 bases, and once he accrued 52, which was enough for him to lead that statistic in the American League. A two-time Doubles leader, Otis would also use his speed in the outfield which would earn him three Gold Gloves,” writes Not in Hall of Fame

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About Matthew Sherdan

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