I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
Who Are the Best Home Run Hitters in Kansas City Royals History?
The Kansas City Royals have not been known for their power hitters until recently. The single-season home run record set in 1985 stood for more than 30 years, but it has been bested three times since 2017. Whether this increase in homers is a fluke or the new way in Kansas City is yet to be determined, but it sure has produced some exciting baseball there in recent seasons.
In this article, I will explore the top power hitters in the history of the Kansas City Royals. These rankings are not based upon opinions, and for a player to be considered, he must have hit at least 75 home runs during his time with the Royals. Players were then ranked by averaging their rank for both of these criterion:
- Total home runs with the Royals
- Plate appearances per home run with the Royals
Following the top five are the best of the rest, a handful of shorter lists of franchise leaders in more defined categories, and franchise home run records. Information from Stathead on Baseball Reference was used to compile statistics.
Note: Ranks in parenthesis in individual player capsules represent their ranking among players who hit at least 75 home runs with the Royals. Statistics are current through the end of the 2021 season.
T-5. Danny Tartabull
- Years Played: 1987–91
- Home Runs: 124 (12th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 21.65 (4th)
- Single-Season High: 34 in 1987
After a strong rookie season in 1986 with the Seattle Mariners, the Royals traded for Danny Tartabull and received a solid middle-of-the-order bat. Tartabull set a career-high with 34 home runs in his first season in Kansas City, and made the only All-Star appearance of his career in his final year with the Royals in 1991 (when he led the American League with a .593 slugging percentage).
T-5. Steve Balboni
- Years Played: 1984–88
- Home Runs: 119 (14th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 18.50 (2nd)
- Single-Season High: 36 in 1985
Steve Balboni was a key contributor to the 1985 World Series champions. He set the franchise single-season home run record with 36 (later broken in 2017) and hit .320 during the seven-game World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Balboni hit at least 24 home runs in each of his four full seasons with the Royals, making up for his low batting average and propensity to strike out.
T-5. Bo Jackson
- Years Played: 1986–90
- Home Runs: 109 (15th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 18.44 (1st)
- Single-Season High: 32 in 1989
Known as one of the greatest all-around athletes in history, Bo Jackson thrilled fans in Kansas City in the late 1980s. He never played more than 135 games in any full season, but he hit at least 22 homers each year. Jackson famously led off the bottom of the first inning of the 1989 All-Star Game with a towering home run, which helped him win game MVP honors.
4. George Brett
- Years Played: 1973–1993
- Home Runs: 317 (1st)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 36.67 (14th)
- Single-Season High: 30 in 1985
George Brett spent all 21 years of his playing career in Kansas City, and while he wasn't known as a power hitter, he occasionally would find some pop at the plate. He had eight seasons with more than 20 home runs, including a career-high 30 in 1985 when the Royals won the World Series, and 24 in 1980 when he won MVP honors. Brett was an All-Star each year from 1976 to '88 and won three Silver Sluggers. He hit nine postseason home runs—including three in the 1985 American League Championship Series to win MVP honors—but his most famous home run came on the "Pine Tar Incident." In that 1983 game, the New York Yankees accused Brett of having too much pine tar on his bat after he homered late in the game. After his home run was disallowed by the umpires, an explosive Brett came hurtling out of the dugout (the decision that was later reversed).
3. John Mayberry Sr.
- Years Played: 1972–77
- Home Runs: 143 (8th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 26.24 (7th)
- Single-Season High: 34 in 1975
After playing 105 games over four seasons with the Houston Astros, John Mayberry finally got his chance as an everyday player when he was traded to the Royals for the 1972 season. He immediately became a star, hitting .298 with 25 homers and finishing 12th in MVP voting. The next season, he made his first of back-to-back All-Star appearances, and in 1975, he set a then-franchise record with 34 home runs and finished as the runner-up in MVP voting. Mayberry hit two postseason homers, but his career in Kansas City came to an unceremonious end during the 1978 ALCS when he clashed with manager Whitey Herzog.
2. Mike Sweeney
- Years Played: 1995–2007
- Home Runs: 197 (3rd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 26.79 (9th)
- Single-Season High: 29 in 2000 and '01
MIke Sweeney played the first 13 seasons of his 16-year career with the Royals, and during his height, he was one of the most productive players in baseball. Sweeney got his first shot as a full-time player in 1999 and hit 22 home runs, and the next season, he was an All-Star, hit a career-high 29 homers and set a club record with 144 RBI. He made the All-Star Game the next three seasons and again in 2005. From 2000 to '03, he was one of 20 players in baseball to hit at least 95 home runs and hit better than .300 (only seven of those players were American Leaguers).
1. Salvador Perez
- Years Played: 2011–present
- Home Runs: 200 (2nd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.79 (5th)
- Single-Season High: 48 in 2021
Salvador Perez has been a steady catcher and offensive force for the Royals ever since he took over full-time duties in 2013. That was his first of six straight All-Star seasons, and he progressively gained more and more power over time. In 2015, he hit two home runs in the first two rounds of the postseason before claiming World Series MVP honors after hitting .364 as Kansas City dispatched the New York Mets. Perez hit 27 homers in each 2017 and '18, but missed the 2019 season due to injury. In the COVID 19-shortened 2020 season, he hit 11 homers in 37 games as a precursor of what would come in his breakout 2021 campaign. He matched the franchise record with an AL-leading 48 home runs to pick up his fourth Silver Slugger and finish seventh in MVP voting.
The Best of the Rest
Because of the big tie for fifth, here is the final home run hitter from Kansas City Royals history who just missed the top five.
- Years Played: 2011–18
- Home Runs: 139 (9th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 26.87 (10th)
- Single-Season High: 38 in 2017
Mike Moustakas briefly held the franchise's single-season home run record after blasting 38 homers in 2017, his second All-Star year. His first big season came in 2015, when he had 22 home runs—a nice follow-up to the 2014 postseason, which saw him swat five homers as the Royals advanced to the World Series.
Kansas City Royals Home Run History
Below are some of the franchise home run records for the Kansas City Royals.
Kansas City Royals Career Home Run Leaders
- 1. George Brett, 317
- 2. Salvador Perez, 200
- 3. Mike Sweeney, 197
- 4. Amos Otis, 193
- 5. Alex Gordon, 190
Kansas City Royals Plate Appearance/Home Run Leaders (min. 100 HRs)
- Bo Jackson, 18.44
- Steve Balboni, 18.50
- Jorge Soler, 19.75
- Danny Tartabull, 21.65
- Salvador Perez, 22.79
Kansas City Royals Single-Season Home Run Leaders
- T-1. Salvador Perez, 48 (2021)
- T-1. Jorge Soler, 48 (2019)
- 3. Mike Moustakas, 38 (2017)
- 4. Steve Balboni, 36 (1985)
- 5. Gary Gaetti, 35 (1995)
Kansas City Royals Single-Game Home Run Leaders
- 7 players tied with 3 (George Brett and John Mayberry did it twice)
© 2021 Andrew Harner