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|
Two Rays were honored in the BWAA’s MLB awards this offseason; Joe Maddon and Jeremy Hellickson. Also part of the baseball award season, is MLB.com’s team awards. The MLB.com team awards include Breakout Player of the Year, Player of the Year (top non-pitcher), and Pitcher of the Year. The Breakout Player award went to Hellickson, who added that accolade to his prestigious 2011 ROY award. I wouldn’t describe Hellboy’s fantastic season as a ‘breakout year’ exactly, as his 2010 previewed great things to come. James Shields’ unbelievable season was a picture perfect example of a great breakout year though. But with how the MLB.com team awards work, it is unlikely that one player wins multiple awards. The Player of the Year Award was the most anticipated of the three, and was won by Ben Zobrist. The choice for the award was mainly between Longoria and Zobrist, as both put up the best offensive production during the season. Zorilla’s consistency and ability to serve as baseball’s best utility man separated him from Longo’s great glovework and powerful bat. I strongly agree with the decision to honor Zobrist as the Rays’ top player in 2011, after such a terrific season. All season long I felt as if Zobrist was one of the most underrated players in the game, considering how much he contributed to such a successful team. The third team award acknowledges the ace of the Rays talented young pitching staff. Obviously, the 2011 Pitcher of the Year award went to James Shields, who also finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. The stats did all the talking for ‘Big Game’ James, as 11 complete games and a 2.82 ERA were simply impossible to argue with.
The MLB.com awards were not the only official team awards passed out this offseason. The Tampa Bay Chapter of the BWAA gives out three team awards of their own; MVP, the Outstanding Rookie Award, and the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. The MVP award went to Shields, which was definitely the right choice. Many people tend misinterpret the Player of the Year Award and the MVP award, and get them mixed up. Since the MLB.com team awards also acknowledge the best pitcher, the Player of the Year award basically refers to the best player that’s not a pitcher. In the BWAA team awards there is the MVP Award and no Pitcher of the Year award, giving pitchers an opportunity to win the team MVP. That’s exactly what happened in the Rays’ case this year, as Shields deservingly took home the team MVP. The third BWAA team award is the Paul C. Smith Champion Award. This award is handed to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. The award was given to Johnny Damon, who I believe represents this award perfectly and was the obvious choice. Johnny Damon not only is a great clubhouse guy and person, but also a real winner on the field. His tremendous effort and hustle displayed on the diamond day after day is what makes him such a great baseball player, and keeps him still playing the game he loves. Those are all the Rays’ team awards for 2011, but that’s not all the accolades for Rays players this fall. The J.G. Taylor Spink Award (Minor League Player of the Year) was won by Rays’ phenom top-prospect Matt Moore. Moore earned the extremely high honor by putting up ridiculous numbers (in AA and AAA combided), including a 1.92 ERA.
The Rays’ award isn’t season over, MLB.com’s GIBBY Awards (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) feature 5 nominated Rays. Click here to vote today!
To see my choices for the 2011 Rays team awards click here.
The Rays Rant is evaluating every Rays player of 2011. Well at least the ones that played a decent amount of time in the big leagues this year. I will also be handing out the following team awards: Team MVP, the Team Leader award, Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion, Stolen Base leader, Team RBI King, All-Star, the Impact Player award, the Rookie of the Year award, the Heart & Hustle award, and the Team Player award. Here are the grades and evaluation of the 2011 Rays:
Alex Cobb– When Alex Cobb was called up in the middle of the season to replace the injured Wade Davis, nobody really knew what to expect from him. He quickly showed that he was another Ray rookie talent, and was excelling at the Major League level. It seemed as if he was on a roll, until he required season-ending surgery. I big blow to the pitching staff, but still a bright future ahead. Grade: A
Juan Cruz– The Rays signed Juan Cruz in the offseason as part of their efforts to rebuild the bullpen. When they got Cruz, they were really just trying to get lucky. And very lucky they were, as Cruz went 5-0 in relief for the season. Cruz really was a surprise after the previous two years, which included a horrible 2009 and a 5.1 inning 2010. Grade: A-
Wade Davis– As expected, Wade Davis made the young 5-man Rays rotation. Like the other four guys, Davis looked bright coming into the season. But 2011 ended up being a bit of a frustration for Wade, as he put up better stats the previous season. His ERA climbed .38 points higher, but his 11-10 record with a 4.45 ERA was still pretty decent. Grade: B-
Kyle Farnsworth– Farnsworth was probably the Rays best offseason move. With no bullpen that meant no closer, and the Rays were out to find one. Just like almost every other reliever on the Rays impressive bullpen, Farnsworth didn’t really have high expectations coming into the season. The 36 year-old Farnsworth had the best season of his long career. Grade: A+
Jeremy Hellickson– The surging young right-hander had a tremendous season this year, and was probably the second-best starter in the rotation. His 2.95 ERA is one of the best in the league, and he is a very strong candidate for the ROY award. Grade: A+ Award: Rookie of the Year award
J.P. Howell– Recovering from a horrific shoulder injury, J.P. and the Rays were thrilled after over a year on the sidelines. But it quickly became clear that Howell wasn’t the same, and he ended the season with a 6.16 ERA. Grade: D-
Jake McGee– McGee has been a young bullpen arm that the Rays are excited about. He still is a developing player though, and let up a lot of runs in 2011. Still his 5 wins was pretty good. Grade: C+
Matt Moore– Matt Moore is all he’s hyped up to be. The fireballer southpaw showed terrific stuff in his first month in the MLB, and lead the Rays pitching staff in the postseason. Moore is probably the most exciting rookie in the baseball, and my pick for ROY next year. Grade: A+
Jeff Niemann– Niemann is in a recovering process, after coming back from a major career-setback last year. Everything was looking great for the surging Niemann until he injured his shoulder. This season, Niemann has shown that he is on the right track, with an 11-7 record and a ERA just over 4. Grade: B
Joel Peralta– Peralta had an impressive season as the Rays setup man, and was part of a very smart offseason move. Joel is a big part of the Rays future in the bullpen, and will likely (and hopefully) be a Ray next year. Grade: A-
David Price– Price had extremely high expectations coming into the season. Considering all of that, 2011 may have been a disappointment. After a Cy Young caliber 2010 with a 2.72 ERA and 19 wins, Price finished 2011 with a losing record and an ERA of 3.49. Most think it was just an off-year for the phenom lefty, and he will continue his ace ways in the future. Grade: B Award: All-Star
Cesar Ramos– Being the only left-hander in the ‘pen, Ramos had one of the biggest jobs on the team. He just barely did it good enough. He had problems with the longball, letting up 19 dingers in the season. Grade: C+
James Shields– Shields had an unbelievable season, finishing with a stellar ERA of 2.82 and a remarkable 11 complete games. Shields was really the third-best pitcher in the AL this year, just behind the ridiculous seasons of Verlander and Weaver. Grade: A+ Awards: Team MVP, All-Star
John Jaso– Overall a disappointing year for Jaso. His average dipped to .224 and his defense behind the plate was sloppy. Grade: C
Kelly Shoppach– Quite frankly an embarrassing season for the backstop, hitting .176. The highlight of his season was some clutch homers, but besides that it was just one big disappointment. Grade: D-
Reid Brignac– Another big disappointment for the Rays, Brignac wasn’t able to do anything offensively. He hit .193 and knocked in only 15 runs. His great defense at shortstop was what kept him in the league. Grade: D
Elliot Johnson– Another Rays shortstop hitting in the .190’s. Johnson was still able to get some big hits, and his defense and running game was pretty good. Grade: D+
Casey Kotchman– One of the biggest surprises in MLB this year. Here’s a recent article I wrote about him for a full evaluation. Grade: A+ Awards: C0-Defensive Player of the Year award, Team Batting Champion
Evan Longoria– Just like David Price, Longoria had very high expectations coming into the season. Many experts even picked him to be the AL MVP in their preseason predictions. Considering the player he is, 2011 was a bump in the road. Injuries were a big part of it, as he played at least 20 games less than he would have. He still was able to rack up 99 RBIs and 31 dingers, but his .244 average was really the only disappointment. But it won’t be a season that Longo will forget, as he got the biggest hit in franchise history. Grade: B+ Awards: Co-Defensive Player of the Year Award, Co-Impact Player of the Year award, Team RBI King
Sean Rodriguez– The only part of Sean’s game that wasn’t good in 2011, was the hitting. He finished the season with a .223 average. His defense was great and he really helped the Rays with his high baseball IQ. Grade: B- Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Ben Zobrist– Every team in baseball wishes they had a player like Zorilla. The best utility man in baseball also knows how to hit, knocking in 91 runs and hitting 46 doubles. What makes Zobrist amazing, is how he defends every position he plays so great. Almost anywhere you put him, he’ll field above-average. Grade: A Award: Team Player of the Year award
Johnny Damon– Closing out on a great career, Damon has shown he can still play. He’s really a perfect fit for the Rays; the way he plays with his heart and hustles on every play. A .261 average and 73 RBIs is not too shabby for a 37 year-old. Grade: B Award: Co-Heart & Hustle award
Sam Fuld– The young left fielder will always be known for his fearless defense in the outfield. His hitting is something that is still developing though. Here’s a past article about him and his legend. Grade: B- Award: Co-Defensive Player of the Year award.
Desmond Jennings– When the Rays called up phenom Desmond Jennings this season, it was huge boost for the team. Every part of his game was great, including his power (which surprised everyone). His season started off with a bang , and that’s when everyone knew what kind of player he was. Grade: A+ Award: Co-Impact Player of the Year award
Justin Ruggiano– Ruggiano has been in the Rays organization for a long time, but hasn’t seen too much big league playing time. His time came in 2011, and he gave the team a bit of a boost with some clutch hits. His defense in left was also impressive. Grade: B-
B.J. Upton– In maybe his last year in a Rays uniform, Upton once again repeated some of his same issues. His average was once again low (.243), his strikeout total was very high, and his baserunning was also not so great. On the bright side of things; Upton knocked in 81 runs, was great in center field, and lead the team in stolen bases with his great speed. Grade: B Award: Stolen Base leader
Matt Joyce– Last but definitely not least, it’s the big bat of Matt. Joyce was one of three Rays elected to the All Star Game in Phoenix. After a terrific first half, Joyce’s second half wasn’t nearly as good. What impressed me about Joyce this year, is how he met his goals. Coming into the season, Joyce worked hard to improve his running and fielding game; which hadn’t been up to par last season. He committed just 3 errors (with 8 assists) this year, and only 1 caught stealing. Grade: B+ Award: All-Star