The 1988 Project Day 29 – Kurt Stillwell

Closing in on the finish line with Phase 1 of the 1988 Project. After this post, just one more to go…

1988 Donruss Baseball's Best

Looking at Kurt Stillwell’s stats, the first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that he had no power EVEN IN DENVER. The fact that he got a shot at the majors is a testament to scouting, because outside of a .324/.418/.396 rookie league campaign, he didn’t exactly bowl anyone over with the bat. I seem to remember him being hailed as a good defensive player, but his stats certainly didn’t bear that out, either. Hm. Anyway, he made his debut with the Reds in 1986, putting up a .229/.309/.258 line in 104 games. Apparently Dave Concepcion, still the Reds shortstop at the time, wasn’t interested in backing Stillwell up, feeling that even at 37 he was a starter, and should be getting the nod over the 20-year-old. Hell, Concepcion was right. He put up a OPS+ that was 20 points higher than Stillwell’s, and yet he still split time with Stillwell. Stillwell got more playing time in 87 and bumped his OPS+ up from 56 to 80, though his WAR hovered at -0.6. On November 6th, 1987, the Reds traded him with Ted Power to the Kansas City Royals for Danny Jackson and Angel Salazar.

1988 Fleer Update

Stillwell’s first year with the Royals was a massive improvement. He bumped up his OBP, his SLG, and his fielding, and, more importantly, gained some fame around the league, as this was when I started hearing more about him. He was seen as something of a budding superstar at the time, that’s for sure, second only to Kevin Seitzer when it came to talented young Royals. Also, apparently, Stillwell had some words for Pete Rose after he left the Reds, saying that he felt his role with the team was never completely clear. Rose fired back, saying that he had to babysit Stillwell and that Stillwell should have known he was going to be a backup to Barry Larkin once Larkin returned from an injury. He went on to trash him some more after that, as well. But in Kansas City, there was no doubt: the shortstop job was Stillwell’s to lose, and he shone, at least in 1988.

1988 Score Rookie & Traded

He regressed a little in 1989; his batting average rose, as did his OBP, but his SLG fell by quite a bit. His OPS+ dropped from 101 to 99, still pretty damn good for a shortstop in those days. 1990 saw a little more regression, with every one of his slash stats dropping significantly. He was also felled by a kidney stone around the 1st of July and missed a few games. He stayed with KC until the end of 1991, his production slowly falling each year until new manager Hal McRae benched him when he joined the team.

1988 Topps Traded

He declared free agency and, after flirting with the Cubs, signed with the Padres, with whom he performed terribly in 1992 (.227/.274/.298, -1.7 WAR) after moving to 2B. The Padres had him split time between SS, 3B, and 2B in 1993, and he managed a limp -1.0 WAR. He then disappeared from the majors in 1994 and 1995, playing at AAA Indianapolis for the Reds, where he hit fairly well. He signed on with the Rangers in 1996 and got a little more playing time, but his ML career was pretty much cooked. What the hell happened? I guess that the scouting wasn’t quite accurate, and the numbers were. Hmmm. Does anyone know anything else about his career that I may have missed?

My favorite of this set is definitely the Score. Check out that sweet blue uniform! That’s just awesome, and I think it works well with the orange border, oddly enough.

Okay, so we’re almost there. Only one player left, and he was a member of the White Sox…

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1 Comment

Filed under The 1988 Project

One response to “The 1988 Project Day 29 – Kurt Stillwell

  1. Sandy A

    Kurt Stillwell was on the 1988 All-Star team as a reserve, due to his performance in the first half of that season; it seemed he’d come out of the gate pretty well and sorta peter out towards the end. The Royals braintrust decided he needed to weight train more in order to increase his stamina to get through a full season; IMHO (and in some sportswriters’ opinions at the time), this “bulking up” actually ended up killing his range in the field. There was also some tweaking of his hitting mechanics, trying to put more power in his swing. Soon after, the Royals also started to stink up the place, and he went off to San Diego, where he was plagued with injuries. (And then the rest was history.)

    I could be biased because I am a fan (and he is a genuinely nice human being), but I think the Royals could have had a really nice switch-hitting spray hitter who’d play in 80% of the games, hit about .260 – .270 every year, and be solid (though not spectacular) in the field if they hadn’t have screwed around with his development – instead they were trying to make something of him that he simply was not.

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