Kansas City Royals: Historical Pit of Despair at Second Base

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) - Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) - Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

In the first two decades of their existence, the Kansas City Royals were locked down at second base.

Since Frank White retired in 1990, the Kansas City Royals have not developed an every day second baseman that has contributed over any length of time for the franchise.

Veteran Cookie Rojas joined the Royals in 1970 after time with the Reds, Phillies, and Cardinals. He was the primary second baseman for the Royals for six seasons, then began to slowly cede the position to Frank White.

Rojas went to four All-Star games as a Royal and White, over his long career, added five more All-Star Game appearances.

The Royals were lucky to have such terrific players at the keystone for so long. Then the drought struck, and the team has never been able to raise its own everyday second baseman since.

In their entire history, the Royals have only had eight players with at least 1,000 Plate Appearances with the team, with second base their primary position. Eight – total!

In fact, since 1990 the Royals have developed only two players at the position who could be considered everyday players for any length of time at second. Carlos Febles started off with a promising rookie season in 1999 but quickly flamed out, never matching those numbers again, despite hanging on with the team until 2003.

More from KC Kingdom

Mark Ellis began his career in the Royals’ organization but was traded to Oakland as part of the Johnny Damon deal after the 2000 season and never played for the Royals. He went on to have a 12-year career, most of which was spent as a starter.

That’s it. Since the Royals launched as a franchise in 1969, White, Ellis, and Febles are the only three players to make significant contributions at Major League level as a second baseman. Two of those made little to no impact for the Royals.

After White and Rojas, the Royals best second basemen have been free agent signings like Jose Offerman and Mark Grudzielanek, both of whom played just three years in Kansas City.

Royals fans now hang their hopes on Whit Merrifield, who after 421 Plate Appearances is hitting a respectable .272 with a .707 OPS. Still, these numbers are nothing to get overly excited about.

Rather, you can be cautiously optimistic that Merrifield can be a legitimate everyday second baseman for the Royals. Those numbers pretty much match his minor league career stats. What you see here is what you get.

Merrifield will hit a few home runs, steal a few bases, and play acceptable defense. Don’t expect more than that because he doesn’t tend to walk much and he can strike out some. He’s only 28, though, and he can be an acceptable everyday second baseman for the Royals for a few years if they decide he can handle the role.

It is amazing though, how the franchise has been unable to raise even an above average second baseman since Frank White, who made his debut in 1973. He’s the only one, albeit a great one. This is also the case for shortstops.

It begs the question as to why the Royals can’t develop middle infielders on a consistent basis. Is it scouting? Development? Drafting? It is probably a combination of all of those things.

It would be great if Dayton Moore and his staff could buck this trend that is nearly a half century old and find some prospects they can develop into top notch Major League middle infielders.

The Kansas City Royals need to look to the future in upcoming drafts and any deals they make in the approaching months may need to include at least some middle infield prospects. These are two important positions that could be key to future success!