Beltran made his major league debut in 1998, playing 14 games with the Royals. In 1999, he won the Royals' starting center field job in spring training and won the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Injuries caused Beltran to miss part of the 2000 season and he slumped to .247, losing his center field job to the popular Johnny Damon. After Damon was traded following the season, Beltran regained his job and recaptured his rookie form, batting .306 with 24 home runs and 101 RBIs.
Beltran is what scouts call a "five-tool player," with good fielding skills, a good throwing arm, ability to hit for average, power, and steal bases.