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 it's 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.
David Price has done so much in his short time in the big leagues. In just over three seasons, Price has been selected to two All Star Games, won 41 games, finished second in the 2009 Cy Young voting and closed out Game 7 of the ALCS to win the pennant. At just 26 years old, it looks like it's just the beginning of a great career for Price.
Here are Price's career stats:
41- 26, 3.38 ERA, 520 K
Carlos Pena was an absolute power machine in his four years as a Ray. He is currently the franchise leader in home runs, belting out 144 dingers for the Rays. Pena not only gave the Rays great offensive production, but he was also one of the slickest defensive first basemen in the game.
His Gold Glove award that he won back in 2008 sits among Pena's accolades. He was selected to the All Star Game once, has one Silver Slugger award and a Comeback Player of the Year award. The best part about all his awards, is that he earned them all as Ray.
Here are his career stats as a member of the Rays:
144 HR, .238 BA, 407 RBI
The Tampa Bay Rays have never had a utility man as good as Ben Zobrist. They also haven't had much players more valuable to the team than Zobrist either. At 18.7, "Zorilla" has the fifth highest WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in the franchise's history. Zobrist has meant so much to the club in the last few years, boosting both the defense and offense.
Besides playing up to seven positions, Zobrist was also able to knock in 91 runs twice in the last three years. He also has double-digit home-run power and plays stellar defense at wherever he is on the diamond.
Here are his career stats:
.257 BA, 314 RBI, 72 HR, 317 R, 67 SB
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 he still hasn't played up to his full potential.
Upton (along with Longoria) carried the Rays through the 2008 magical postseason run, blasting seven home runs 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:
.257 BA, 369 RBI, 90 HR, 201 SB, 460 R
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:
.291 BA, 99 HR, 359 RBI, .380 OBP
Scott Kazmir was the ace of the Rays' rotation in four out of his six years on the team. He was among the franchise's three original farm-gown stars, including his Texas-native teammates Aubrey Huff and Carl Crawford. Kazmir was really the only starting pitcher 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:
55-44, 3.92 ERA, 874 K, 1.39 WHIP
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 home runs 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:
.287 BA, 449 RBI, 128 HR
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 led 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:
72-63, 3.96 ERA, 1027 K, 1.233 WHIP
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:
.274 BA, 113 HR, 401 RBI, .360 OBP
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 he was a great baseball player the whole way through.
Here are Crawford's tremendous career numbers as a Ray:
.296 BA, 592 RBI, 104 HR, 765 R, 409 SB, 1480 H
Lugo was a Devil Ray from 2003-2006 and is the franchise's best shortstop ever. Lugo had great speed on the bases, good defense at short and could also hit for average. Here are his career stats as a Devil Ray:
.287 BA, 88 SB, 40 HR, 212 RBI, .350 OBP.
Rocco was a Fan Favorite in Tampa Bay during his six years for the Rays. His rare muscle disorder is what kept him from having a great successful career in the big leagues. Still, Baldelli was able to overcome enough injuries in his career to be a hometown hero in Tampa Bay. Here are his career stats for the Rays:
.280 BA, 239 RBI, 53 HR.
Matt Garza was in the mix of a lot of Rays history during his three seasons for the team. He pitched an absolute masterpiece in probably the biggest game in franchise history, clinching the Rays' first ever pennant. He also tossed the franchise's only no-hitter. Here are his career numbers as a Ray:
34-31, 3.86 ERA, 467 K, 1.251 WHIP.