The Tampa Bay Rays have a very short, but interesting history. The franchise has changed so much in a 13-year span, probably more than any other team. It’s a team that has suffered through plenty of bad seasons, but have had some miraculous ones too. So far there aren’t any Rays jerseys hanging in Cooperstown, but the emerging young talent is looking to change that. On this list I will rank the top 10 overall-best Tampa Bay Rays players; all the way from 1998. All position players who played over 300 games for the Rays and pitchers who were on the roster for at least two seasons, are eligible for the list. This automatically excludes some star names, like Jose Canseco and Wade Boggs. Still, super stars such as Carl Crawford, Fred McGriff, and Evan Longoria highlight a great top 10.
7.) B.J. Upton– B.J. Upton has proved to be one of the most valuable players to ever wear a Rays uniform. His career WAR of 19.8 is the fourth highest of all time for the franchise. He’s been a big part of the Rays’ past success, but still hasn’t played up to his full potential. Upton (along with Longoria) carried the Rays through the 2008 magical postseason run, blasting seven homeruns in the playoffs. Upton has been a huge part of the club for seven years now. His terrific speed, power, and great defense in center are all reasons why BJ is a big name in Tampa Bay. Below are Upton’s career stats:
6.) Fred McGriff– Fred McGriff, the “Crime Dog”, was one of the premier sluggers of the Devil Ray era. He spent five years playing for his hometown team in Tampa Bay, starting from the ’98 Inaugural Year. The six-time All Star was the franchise’s first real good hitter, along with Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. McGriff closed out his great career strong as a Devil Ray, hitting 99 homers and batting over .290 through his five seasons. Here are his career Tampa Bay Devil Rays stats:
|TBD (5 yrs)||577||2074||277||603||102||99||359||11||305||433||.291||.380||.484||.864||1004|
5.) Scott Kazmir– Scott Kazmir was the ace of the Rays’ rotation in four out of his six years on the team. He was amongst the franchise’s three original farm-gown stars, including his Texas-native teammates Aubrey Huff and Carl Crawford. Kazmir was really the only starting pitching the Rays had until 2008, when the team went worst to first. Considering the Devil Rays’ lack of arms in the rotation, the two-time All Star was one of baseball most valuable pitchers for a while. Kazmir’s years are probably behind him, but he had a heck of a run with the Rays. Here are career numbers as a Ray:
|TBR (6 yrs)||55||44||.556||3.92||145||834.0||777||400||87||382||9||874||1.390|
4.) Aubrey Huff– Aubrey Huff was the team’s main power source in most of his seven years as a member of the Devil Rays. Huff was an offensive machine for the team in his seasons, raking 128 homeruns and knocking in 449 runs. His solid defense at first base and ability to hit well for average, also added to his player value. Here are his stats for his Devil Rays career:
|TBD (7 yrs)||799||3028||400||870||172||128||449||20||247||412||.287||.343||.477||.819||1444|
3.) James Shields– Statistics don’t show how much “Big Game James” has meant to the Rays. More than any other Rays starter in history, Shields wins games. Especially the the big games (hence the nickname). Shields has played six seasons for the Rays, and has been a big part of the rotation for most of his short career. After a disappointing 2010 season, Shields came back with an incredible season last year. He lead the terrific young Rays pitching staff, with a 2.82 ERA and 16 wins. He finished third in the Cy Young voting, and was elected to his first All Star Game. He’s the most valuable Rays pitcher of all time, and he looks like he’s just getting better. Here are his lifetime stats:
2.) Evan Longoria– Since Carl Crawford departed to Boston last winter, Longoria has been the face of the franchise. The true leader of the team; the man who’s been carrying the Rays every since his monster rookie year back in ’08. Not only is Longoria a hometown hero in Tampa, but he’s also one of the best players in all the big leagues. The 27 year-old has big-time power, amazing defense, and hits in the clutch better than any Ray ever. He’s played only four seasons in the majors, but has already blasted over 100 homers and 400 RBIs. It’s only a matter of time before Longoria becomes the best Tampa Bay Rays player ever. Here are his career stats:
1.) Carl Crawford– I don’t think there’s a question of who’s the best Ray ever. Carl Crawford leads the franchise’s history in average, RBIs, runs, hits, stolen bases, WAR (36.8), and games played. All the way from 2002 to 2010, Crawford was the heart and soul of the franchise. CC was there for the good times and the bad, but was a great baseball player the whole way through.
|TBR (9 yrs)||1235||4992||765||1480||215||105||104||592||409||293||768||.296||.337||.444||.781||2217|
Last but definitely not least, the Stan Musial Award is the highest honor of all the BBA Awards. It acknowledges the the (AL) MVP of league. To learn more about BBA and the BBA Awards read my earlier post. Deciding the top players in the AL was a long thinking and research process, and ultimately an extremely tough choice. So many players put up terrific numbers in 2011, making it nearly impossible for me to order the top ten best. Here they are:
1.) Miguel Cabrera– Another great year to a great career for the slugging first baseman. Last year Cabrera finished second in the AL MVP voting, right behind Josh Hamilton. It looks like he will definitely be finishing in the top three again, as he has put out some terrific numbers. First off, Cabrera leads the MLB with a stellar .344 BA. He also has 30 homers, 105 RBI’s, and 111 runs. He leads the AL in doubles, OBP (by far), and games played (161 G). Incredible for a big guy like Miggy, to only miss 1 game, hit the most doubles, lead in OBP, and lead in average. The only part of his game that is not MVP- caliber, is his speed and defense. When I considered that all his competitors were good in at least one of those two things, it made the choice even tougher. But I decided to give it to him because he lead in the most stats, and quite frankly has hit the baseball better than anybody in the MLB. My last factor in this vote, was that his team went farther than any of the other candidates (besides Michael Young and Verlander).
2.) Adrian Gonzalez– Another terrific slugging first baseman, similar to Cabrera. With the second-best avg. (tied with Michael Young) in the Majors (.338), Gonzalez has probably had the best year of his career so far. Adrian has really made a bid for first in this award, knocking in 12 more RBI’s than Cabrera and playing much better defense. I still had to give it to Cabrera though, because he leads in everything else and they both aren’t good baserunners. Also, Gonzalez had more hits, but Cabrera’s less K’s in more ABs definitely evened that out.
3.) Jacoby Ellsbury– At number 3, Ellsbury was almost good enough for me to put him at #1. It was really hard for me to put the young center fielder at #3, after the amazing season he had this year. Every part of his game was MVP- caliber, but the most surprising was the power numbers. Incredibly, Ellsbury has more homers that Gonzalez and Cabrera with 32. Also, he knocked in 105 runs which is tied with Cabrera. He finished the season ranking top 5 in every offensive stat; including runs, hits, and stolen bases. His 39 thefts are much better than any other MVP candidate (including Granderson). Also, his Gold Glove worthy defense in CF is definitely not something I overlooked. Really, the only thing that kept out of #1 or #2 in the voting was his average. A .321 average is terrific, but it’s just not as good as Gonzalez’s or Cabrera’s. Considering the lack of speed of those two big guys, having a higher average than Ellsbury means that they hit a lot more solid line-drives.
4.) Curtis Granderson– The only thing that got in the way of a #1 vote, was Granderson’s .262 average. Average is something that I weigh heavily in these votes, and .262 is not an MVP number. Besides that, everything else Granderson does on the baseball field is MVP- caliber. His run-producing numbers are ridiculous, and he’s also an impressive outfielder and baserunner.
5.) Jose Bautista– It’s really hard for me to put a player like Bautista 5th in this voting. Out of all these candidates, Jose may mean the most to his team. He leads the league in WAR and is the MLB home run champion. His fielding is also above average. The average is really what brought him down.
6.) Michael Young– Let me just start with this: the Rangers would not be in the World Series if it wasn’t for Young. A true ballplayer, Young was moved to SS this year and still performed. His .338 average is second-best in baseball and his 106 RBIs are also remarkable.
7.) Adrian Beltre– Another great Ranger infielder. Beltre struggled through hamstring injuries throughout the year, and still amazingly was able to rack up 105. RBIs. In addition to that, his stellar defense and high average were also impressive.
8.) Robinson Cano– Cano’s ridiculous second half of the season is what puts him in the conversation. He ended the season with 118 RBIs (2nd in AL) and a .302 average. He also had another great year at second base.
9.) Paul Konerko– Now here’s a great baseball player that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Once again, Pauly has posted terrific offensive numbers. He hit .300 with 105 RBIs and 31 dingers.
10.) Evan Longoria– Well this one may be a little bit bias. Longoria saved his season by ending it on fire. After recovering from an early-season injury, Longo still ended the season with 99 RBIs and 31 homers. His defense was terrific once again, and it looks like he will get his 3rd Gold Glove Award this year. His .244 average is what hurt him though.
Honorable mentions- Some other players with great seasons include: Justin Verlander (pitching Triple Crown champ), Mark Teixeira (111 RBIs, Gold Glove- caliber season), Victor Martinez (.330 average, 103 RBIs), and Josh Hamilton (.298, 94 RBIs, great defense)
If you are a member of the BBA and have posted your Willie Mays Award (or any other award) votes, I’d really like to see what you think. Comment the link of your post below. I would also love to see anyone else’s opinions. You also can rate the post from 1-5 stars, evaluating my voting. If you’re a blogger interested and joining the BBA, click here.