A classic five-tool player, Beltran burst onto the scene with a brilliant rookie campaign, only to take major step backwards in his sophomore season. The Puerto Rican native made the leap from Double-A in 1998 to the Royals' full-time center field job in 1999. Just 21 years of age when the season started, Beltran sometimes showed his youth in a lack of plate discipline (123 strikeouts against 46 walks) and a tendency to misplay balls in the outfield (an AL-high 12 errors), but more than made up for these peccadilloes with a surplus of natural talent.
Becoming the first rookie since Fred Lynn in 1975 to top the century mark in both runs and RBIs, the switch-hitting Beltran batted .293 with 22 home runs, scoring 112 runs and driving in 108. He rapped 194 hits, racked up 301 total bases and collected 27 steals. Despite his high error total, he showed great promise in the outfield, where his speed and athleticism helped him rob numerous batters of extra-base hits and his strong throwing arm cut down 16 enemy baserunners. After the season he received 26 of 28 first-place votes to easily win the BBWAA's Rookie of the Year award.
Following all the promise of his first season, Beltran was a major letdown in 2000. He struggled badly from the left side of the plate and drew a brief mid-season benching from manager Tony Muser for a lack of hustle. Shortly afterwards, a bone bruise on his right knee all but ended his season. Beltran made more trouble for himself when he refused to show up for rehabilitation at the Royals' Florida training complex and was suspended without pay by the club. When he finally rejoined the Royals in September he found himself effectively locked out of the outfield, where leadoff man Johnny Damon had moved to center field and rookie Mark Quinn had taken over in left. In 98 games Beltran hit just .247 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs. (AGL)
FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 1, 1995:
The California Angels select Nebraska OF Darin Erstad with the 1st pick in the amateur draft. He'll sign for a $1.6 bonus, the highest signing bonus to date. Picking next, the Padres take high school C Ben Davis, and the Mariners pick Jose Cruz, Jr. The Cubs follow with Texas high schooler Kerry Wood. The 5th pick, P Ariel Prieto, will debut with the A's on July 5. Picking 7th, the Rangers pass over Todd Helton to take P Jonathan Johnson. Picking next, Colorado takes Helton. The Brewers take future starting OF Geoff Jenkins in the first round, but the rest of their picks will be busts. Sean Casey goes to the Indians on round 2, and the Royals take Carlos Beltran on the same round. Gabe Kapler goes to the Tigers on the 57th round. The Mets strike out in the first round (18th) with SS Ryan Jaroncyk; picking in the same spot four years ago they took OF Al Shirley.
»September 16, 1999: In a 71 Kansas City win over Anaheim, Carlos Beltran collects his 100th RBI. He's the first rookie since Mark McGwire, in 1987, to reach that level.
»September 17, 1999:
In a 93 win over Oakland, KC's prize rookie Carlos Beltran passes the 100 RBI and 100 runs scored mark, the first rookie to do so since Fred Lynn in 1975.
»April 9, 2000: The Twins defeat the Royals, 13-7. In the process, they become the 1st teams in history to each hit back-to-back-to-back home runs in the same game. Ron Coomer, Jacque Jones, and Matt LeCroy hit consecutive blasts for Minnesota in the 6th inning, followed by three in a row by Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, and Mike Sweeney of Kansas City an inning later.
»April 17, 2002: The Royals explode for nine runs on eight hits in top of the 8th inning as they rout the Twins, 163. Carlos Beltran hits a 3run home run in the 7th for KC, and Joe Randa and Raul Ibanez also have three RBIs. Paul Byrd (30) is the easy winner.