Sadly (for me, anyway; you may feel differently), weâ€™re at the end of this series on best seasons by batting order position. I hope this series taught you a little something about Royals history, or at least helped the offseason go by a little faster. Just think, weâ€™re only days away from the start of spring training, and just a few weeks away from spring training games.
Here are links to the previous entries:
I was a little surprised to find that there were some quality seasons at the ninth spot in the order. Obviously no one who hit here much was putting up All-Star caliber numbers, but there were some decent years.
1. Fran Healy, 1973
295 PA, .280/.352/.410, 23 R, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 15 2B, 3 SB
Fran Healy was plucked out of Clevelandâ€™s farm system in the expansion draft, then spent most of 1969 and all of 1970 in the minors. The Royals then traded him to San Francisco, only to get him back in a trade with the Giants right before the 1973 season. Healy was in the majors to stay, but he would still split playing time with Carl Taylor. Still, Healy would have a solid season (the numbers above represent all but 20 of his 1973 plate appearances). He would be the main starter in 1974 before losing his job to Buck Martinez. The emergence of John Wathan (with Martinez still in the fold) made Healy expendable, and he was traded to the Yankees in May 1976 for Larry Gura. He then became a broadcaster, first for the Yankees and then for the Mets.
2. Frank White, 1978
333 PA, .289/.334/.414, 44 R, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 17 2B, 9 SB
Once he cracked the Royalsâ€™ lineup, White hit ninth most of the time for a good four years. That was a pretty good spot for him, since he didnâ€™t walk often but had good speed. I imagine manager Whitey Herzog enjoyed having that speed on base in front of Amos Otis, George Brett, and Hal McRae.
3. Carlos Febles, 2002
224 PA, .283/.377/.372, 27 R, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 9 2B, 10 SB
Carlos Febles had so much promise when he arrived in the majors. He stormed through the minors, posting a .971 OPS as a 22-year-old in Wichita in 1998. The Royals let Jose Offerman leave as a free agent and handed Febles the second-base spot in 1999 (the Royals made up posters featuring Febles and Carlos Beltran, billing them as â€œDos Carlosâ€). He played decently that year (89 OPS+, not terrible for a rookie), but injuries started taking their toll the next season. He would struggle to stay healthy the rest of his career. The 2002 season was just about his last hurrah (and his overall numbers werenâ€™t that good).
4. Onix Concepcion, 1984
203 PA, .330/.368/.383, 24 R, 0 HR, 18 RBI, 6 2B, 3 SB
Onix Concepcion first came up with the Royals in 1980, but he didnâ€™t really stick in the majors until 1982. He backed up U.L. Washington for a couple of seasons before gradually taking the starting spot in 1984. Donâ€™t let these numbers fool you, Concepcion was not a good hitter. Heâ€™s here because he had a rather amazing .365 BABIP in this spot. But itâ€™s not a list based on talent level, itâ€™s based on the stats. Anyway, my childhood memories of Concepcion are that he took Ron Guidry deep leading off the bottom of the first on Opening Day 1984, and his name seemed so exotic. And fun to say.
5. Â Kurt Stillwell, 1988
132 PA, .267/.326/.450, 19 R, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 6 2B, 1 SB
I said last week that Stillwell hit like Cal Ripken compared to his predecessors. Hereâ€™s what I mean: Stillwell hit 10 homers in 1988, his first year in KC. All Royals shortstops combined in 1985, 1986, and 1987 hit 9 homers. Plus, Stillwell would take a walk now and then (he actually spent more time in the leadoff and second spots in the order in 1988), and he was a good fielder.
Johnny Damon, 1997
Fran Healy, 1974
Freddie Patek, 1979
Yuniesky Betancourt, 2010 (Yeah, I know. He did have a .711 OPS batting ninth in this season.)
Rey Sanchez, 1999
And one that stunkâ€¦
Tony Pena, Jr., 2008
172 PA, .170/.182/.212, 17 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 2 2B, 3 SB
I donâ€™t think this needs much explanation. Makes you grateful for Alcides Escobar, doesnâ€™t it?