I keep forgetting that David Dejesus isn’t a Royal anymore. It’s partly because the departure of Zack Greinke was much more publicized. It’s also probably because David Dejesus was  the kind of player who was always under-rated and under-appreciated.

When he was with the Royals I tried to sing his praises to anyone who  would listen. Telling me that he was a “fifth outfielder on a good team” was tantamount to fightin’ words. I always felt like I appreciated his effort and the way he was good at almost every aspect of the game. Sorry David, I can’t gloss over your base-running. He was very good at a lot of things and great at nothing. Those kinds of players don’t ever seem to get the recognition they deserve.

You have to watch him play day in and day out to really have an appreciation for Dejesus. I did that, and I still find myself forgetting that he won’t be a part of the team in 2011. It doesn’t mean that he won’t be missed though.

The last time the Royals played a season without any David Dejesus was in 2002. The last time he played less than 91 games was in 2003 when he got  in just 12 contests. Those 12 games were all in September of that year, long after the Royals had blown their division lead and the excitement had died. The one season in the last decade when the Royals had success and he was late to the party. He was a part of one Royals team that lost fewer than 90 games–in 2008 they went 75-87.

Through all of that losing, Dejesus never seemed to lose his composure or his desire to play the game. To be honest, I have no idea if that is true. I was never around him, but it sure seemed that way. Some fans didn’t approve of the way he always had a smile on his face when his team was consistently losing. I found it endearing and comforting. To me, it was a subtle reminder that it’s still just a game. I’m probably just as sick and tired of watching teams lose as David Dejesus is of playing on them, but a quick grin from him always reminded me that it’s still baseball. If I didn’t love the game, I wouldn’t watch a team lose 90+ games 10 out of the last 14 years.

It’s not just the demeanor of Dejesus that the Royals will miss this year. Nobody cares who won the comforting grin title anyway. What will hurt the most is that he was a damn good baseball player. According to Baseball-Reference, he either led or was tied for highest WAR on the team by a positional player in 2005,2006,2007,2008 and 2009. Basically, he was the best position player for every season he was with the team other than his rookie year and the last one in which he lost time to an injury.

The Royals haven’t been good in the past six years, so the bar for being the best player on the team was set pretty low. The point remains, the best player on the team for the past six years is now gone. It’s also bordering on criminal that he wasn’t selected to an All-Star Game even once during his time as a Royal.

As the 2011 baseball season begins gearing up, I thought it would be nice to just take one more look back at Dejesus and how much he really helped the team during his tenure. If the Royals have any hope of fielding a competitive team, someone is going to have to pick up where he left off. I’ll finish with a table showing where Dejesus ranks in some categories in Royals history.

Category No. All-Time Rank
Games Played 876 12
brWAR 21.7 8
Batting Avg .289 12
On Base % .360 10
Plate Appearances 3799 9
Runs 501 10
Hits 971 9
Total Bases 1431 9
Doubles 187 8
Triples 45 7(tie)

Basically, Dejesus is one of the top ten players in Royals history. That’s not a player who is easily replaced. Good luck in Oakland David. I’ll be rooting for you.

You can follow Nick Scott on Twitter @brokenbatsingle, on Facebook or reach him via email brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com.