In their short-lived history, the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t had much success up until recent years (2008). From Fred McGriff to Carl Crawford to Evan Longoria, the Rays have always had a star shining bright in Tampa Bay.
The Rays haven’t had any MVP or Cy Young award winners yet, but they have had their share of Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers and league leaders.
I’ve decided to put together a 25-man roster—with the exact same structure of an active roster today—compiling all the greatest the franchise’s history. Taking all the Rays’ best players from the last 14 years, here’s how I believe their all-time roster should look like.
Catcher: Toby Hall (2000-2006)
Stat Line (seven years):.262/.298/.382, 44 HR, 4.6 WAR
Toby Hall started his big league with the Devil Rays in 2000, and was traded to the Dodgers in 2006 during his seventh season with the team.
Hall was D-Rays’ Opening Day catcher for five straight seasons, and is the franchise-leader in most offensive at the positions. He was never any kind of star, but he consistently hit over .250 with some pop in his bat. He may have not be the ideal starting catcher for an MLB team, but the Rays would love to have somebody like him now with their backstop mess.
Defensively, Hall was pretty solid. Although his fielding percentage in those seven seasons were a tad below the league average, his caught-stealing percentage was above the league average every year he spent with the Rays. He also had a very good rSB (Stolen Base Runs Saved).
Stat Line (five-plus years):.233/.365/.496, 154 HR, 14.4 WAR
Slugger Carlos Pena has made himself a place in the Rays record books over his five seasons spent with the team. Pena is the franchise leader in slugging percentage, OPS and home runs.
Pena also has his share of accolades. He won a Silver Slugger in 2007, in the year that he finished runner-up to Alex Rodriguez for the American League home run crown. He also has a Gold Glove (2008), an All-Star Game selection (2009), a Comeback Player of the Year award (2007) and finished top 10 in the MVP voting for two straight seasons (2007-2008).
Pena—one of the greatest run-producers in Rays history—is also among the league’s top defensive first basemen. His DRS and fielding percentage during his years with the Rays have been impressive.
Second Base: Ben Zobrist (2006-Present)
Stat Line (seven-plus years):.256/.351/.436, 81 HR, 20.9 WAR
Probably the best and most versatile utility man in baseball, Zobrist has been one of the Rays [and baseball's] most valuable players since he bloomed back in 2009. “Zorilla”, as he’s called in Tampa Bay, can play pretty much every position besides pitcher, and he plays at least three of them (LF, RF and 2B) exceptionally well.
Zobrist is one of the Rays’ five most valuable players ever, and set the club record for highest WAR in a single season (8.7). In that same season (2009), he was selected to the All-Star Game and finished eight in the MVP voting.
Zobrist’s career UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 30.9 and DRS of 31 are two numbers that show his defensive excellence. He also owns a career dWAR (defensive WAR) of 6.1.
Shortstop: Julio Lugo (2003-2006)
Stat Line (four years): .287/.350/.421, 88 SB, 13.8 WAR
It’s hard to decide who gets the starting job at short on this roster between Lugo and Jason Bartlett, but I think Lugo gets the edge because he played one more year than Bartlett with the Rays.
Lugo was a consistent contact hitter for the Devil Rays, and did a pretty good job of getting on base and swiping bags. He’s third among the franchise’s all-time leaders in steals, and averaged around 10 HR and 50 RBI per season with the D-Rays.
Stat Line (four-plus years):.276/.362/.516, 117 HR, 27.8 WAR
In his his fifth year with the Rays, Evan Longoria has emerged as the newest face of the franchise. He’s done some incredible things in his four-plus seasons spent with the Rays.
Longo lead the team in their amazing postseason run in 2008, blasting six homers and 11 RBI to help the Rays reach the World Series. And last year, in the final game of the regular season, Longoria had the game of his life and we all know what happened then.
Longoria is top three among Rays franchise leaders in pretty much every statistical category. He’s a three-time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year award-winner, a two-time Gold Glover, a Silver Slugger and a two-time top-10 finisher in the MVP voting.
Defensively, Longoria is simply the best third baseman in baseball. His talent with the glove—and arm—is absolutely ridiculous. He owns an incredible career UZR of 50.8 and a DRS of 73.
He’s clearly on pace to be the best Rays player of all-time.
Left Field: Carl Crawford (2002-2010)
Stat Line (nine years): .296/.337/.444, 409 SB, 104 HR, 36.8 WAR, 1480 H
It’s simply unarguable: Carl Crawford still remains the best Tampa Bay Ray who ever lived. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in every major stat, besides home runs, OBP and slugging percentage.
Crawford excelled in every part of the game; hitting, base-running, driving in runs, base-running and fielding.
He was debatably baseball’s biggest threat on the bases for many years, leading the league four times in that category and even reaching 60 steals one year.
Defensively, I don’t think any left fielder had the range that Crawford displayed through his nine seasons in Tampa. Although he did not have a very good arm, his unbelievable speed helped him snag fly balls that normal human beings could never reach. Crawford’s DRS rating was great year-after-year, while his UZR was Gold Glove caliber.
His accolades include four All-Star Game selections, an All-Star Game MVP award (2009), a Silver Slugger (2010), a Gold Glove (2010) and a top-10 finish in the MVP voting (2010).
Crawford may of left Tampa on a bitter note, but no Rays fan should ever forget how amazing he was in those nine long years.
Center Field: B.J. Upton (2004-Present)
Stat Line (eight-plus years):.256/.340/.413, 95 HR, 214 SB, 20.5 WAR
This one’s another no-brainer, as B.J. Upton is indisputably the best center fielder in Rays history. He broke into the majors as a shortstop, but finally found his real home in center field in 2008.
He’s amongst the most valuable Rays of all time, and can is capable of providing 80+ RBI and 40+ stolen base type seasons. He’s a 20/20 Club (20 stolen bases, 20 homers) type player, and was one of a select few to collect 20+ homers and 30+ stolen bases last season.
Upton’s speed not only gives him a big boost on the base paths, but it also makes him a pretty good center fielder. He covers a lot of ground with ease in the outfield, and has a cannon for an arm as well.
Upton has maybe failed to reach his high expectations over the past few years, but nobody should forget his incredible playoff run in 2008, when he hit seven home runs and 15 RBI.
Right Field: Aubrey Huff (2000-2006)
Stat Line (six years): .287/.343/.477, 128 HR, 10.7 WAR
Aubrey Huff was one of the franchise’s best hitters during the Devil Ray era, supplying the team with a big portion of their runs during his six seasons spent in Tampa Bay. Hitting was the name of the game for Huff, who provided the D-Rays with 20+ homer and 90+ RBI power.
With a WAR of 10.7, Huff—who played four positions (corner outfield and corner infield)—is the second most valuable utility player in team history (behind Zobrist).
DH: Fred McGriff (1998-2001, 2004)
Stat Line (five years): .291/.380/.484, 99 HR, 7.8 WAR
As you can see from his stats, the “Crime Dog” was clearly one of the best offensive players in the Devil Ray ERA.
McGriff spent five years playing for his hometown team in Tampa Bay, starting from the ’98 Inaugural Year. He closed out his great career strong as a Devil Ray, hitting 99 homers and batting over .290 through those five years.
He owns the franchise record for OBP with a impressive .380, and is his batting average ranks third in team history.
Starting Pitcher #1: James Shields (2006-Present)
Stat Line (seven-plus years): 79-68, 3.97 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 22.7 WAR
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 a career year last season. He led the terrific young Rays pitching staff, posting a 2.82 ERA with 16 wins and 11 complete games. He also finished third in the Cy Young voting and was elected to his first All Star Game.
Shields remains the most valuable Rays pitcher of all time, and the franchise leader in two of the three major pitching categories (wins, ERA, strikeouts). He owns the team record for wins (79), strikeouts (1,026), BB/K (2.12) and innings pitched (1331.2).
Stat Line (five-plus years): 51-30, 3.32 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 12.2 WAR
David Price has done so much in his short time in the big leagues.
In just a little over three seasons, Price has been selected to two All Star 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.
Starting Pitcher #3: Scott Kazmir (2004-2009)
Stat Line (six years): 55-44, 3.92 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 16.5 WAR
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, which included his Texas-native teammates Aubrey Huff and Carl Crawford.
Kazmir was really the only solid 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.
Starting Pitcher #4: Matt Garza (2008-2010)
Stat Line (three years): 34-31, 3.86 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 7.6 WAR
Matt Garza did great things for the Rays in his three seasons spent with the team.
He was a huge part of the Rays’ pennant-winning run in ’08, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, and earning him the ALCS MVP award. His masterful Game 7 performance when his team needed him more than ever is how Garza should be remembered.
That Game 7 was not the only unforgettable moment, however, Garza also tossed the franchise’s first [and only] no-htter.
The Rays eventually traded Garza to the Cubs after the 2010 season, in a deal that ended up being one of the greatest trades in Rays history.
Stat Line (five-plus years): 40-26, 4.11 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 6.1 WAR
Simply put, the only thing that has gotten in the way of stardom for Jeff Niemann is injuries. It seems like right when the big right-hander starts to heat up, he lands on the DL.
As you can see from his win-loss record and decent ERA, Niemann has been a big part of the Rays’ rotation. He’s been arguably baseball’s best back-end starter in the past few years, and he is definitely the best No. 5 starter in the league right now.
Niemann has never really received the credit he deserves, especially considering he cuts the top three in many teams’ rotations.
Stat Line (five years): 28-31, 5.26 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 4.6 WAR
As a starter, Sonnanstine’s only good year was 2008, when he posted a 13-9 record and a 4.38 ERA.
As a reliever, it hasn’t been too much of a success story either, but Sonnanstine did prove he could be an effected long reliever at one point. His stats as a reliever through 52 appearances (86 IP) include a 2-0 record and a 4.40 ERA.
In one department, however, Sonnanstine was the best amongst all the Rays’ pitchers: Hitting. Sonny was once inserted into the lineup as a hitter in an American Leaguegame, and did not disappoint, hitting an RBI double to help his team to a win. He owns a .292 batting average and is tied for the franchise record with seven hits.
Stat Line (five years): 26-30, 5.01 ERA, 18 Hld, 7.5 K/9, 3.2 WAR
Esteban Yan was best known as starter for the Devil Rays, but he actually pitched more innings as a reliever in his career than a starter.
He only started 21 games with the D-Rays (20 of them in 2000), as he had 245 appearances as a reliever during his five seasons spent in Tampa Bay.
Stat Line (four years): 14-7, 3.33 ERA, 49 Hld, 8 SV, 10.4 K/9, 4.3 WAR
Grant Balfour was a huge piece to the Rays ’08 bullpen, which was outstanding all-year round. Balfour blossomed that year, ending the regular season 6-2 with a 1.54 ERA.
He was just as terrific in the ALDS, when he threw 3.1 huge scoreless innings against the White Sox.
Balfour’s numbers with the Rays—especially in the 2008 and 2010 seasons (the two years they made the playoffs)—pretty much tell the story for him.
Stat Line (two years): 9-8, 3.21 ERA, 71 SV, 6.6 K/9, 1.2 WAR
Danys Baez enjoyed the two best years of his career with Tampa Bay, racking up a total of 71 saves through 2004 and 2005.
He only served as a closer for the D-Rays’ bullpen, but he’s probably a better fit at middle relief on this 25-man roster.
Lefty Specialist: Trever Miller (2004-2005, 2008)
Stat Line (three years): 5-3, 3.75 ERA, 32 Hld, 8.0 K/9, 1.4 WAR
You’re probably surprised to see Trever Miller as the lefty specialist on this roster rather than J.P. Howell. But when you look at the main job of a ‘lefty specialist’, and then compare the two’s numbers, Miller seems like the better guy for the role.
Against Howell, left-handed batters and right-handed batters are both hitting .248 and the lefties own a .328 OBP against him in his career. Against Miller, lefties are hitting .225 with a .316 OBP, which is much better than his splits against righties.
Howell wasn’t a lefty specialist in the years that he thrived (2008-2009) anyways, while Trever Miller was in his three years with the Rays.
Stat Line (seven years): 13-25, 4.32 ERA, 64 Hld, 7.7 K/9, 1.2 WAR
As I mentioned before, the Rays put together an excellent bullpen in 2008. It included big contributions from J.P. Howell, Chad Bradford, Trever Miller, Grant Balfour, closer Troy Percival and more. Dan Wheeler was the rock of that ‘pen, and really was the team’s most dependable reliever all-year long.
He’s the best set-up man in the franchise’s history, and owns the team record for holds (64).
Don’t let the numbers fool you, as most of Wheeler’s struggles came in his first three seasons (’99-’01) with the Devil Rays.
Closer: Roberto Hernandez (1998-2000)
Stat Line (three years): 8-16, 3.43 ERA, 101 SV, 7.6 K/9, 4.0 WAR
Roberto Hernandez was really the Devil Rays’ only defensive bright spot in their early years. The starting pitching, fielding and the rest of the the bullpen were all pretty awful in the franchise’s first few seasons.
The Rays have had some good closers in their short-lived history, but none have matched Hernandez’s team record of 101 saves.
In 1999, Hernandez collected 43 saves (out of 47 opportunities) and was selected to the All-Star Game. He also finished top 10 in the Cy Young voting that season.
Backup Catcher: Dioner Navarro (2006-2010)
Stat Line (five years): .243/.300/.352, 29 HR, 2.0 WAR
This was a very, very tough choice for me between Dioner Navarro and John Flaherty.
Flaherty posted better offensive numbers in all the major categories (besides OBP) through his five seasons, but there are three things that give Navarro the tiny edge here.
One reason is a standout season, something that Flaherty never had with the Devil Rays. Navarro had a career year in 2008, and was a big part of the team’s magical run that season. He batted .295/.349/.407, and was selected to his first ever All-Star Game.
Navarro also hit well in the postseason, finishing with a combined .293/.339/.362 line and five RBI.
Another small advantage Navarro has over Flaherty is defense—at least in the throwing department. Navarro’s caught-stealing percentages were flat-out consistently better than Flaherty’s. Navarro posted a percentage 10% higher than the league average twice in his five years with Tampa.
Backup Infielder: Wade Boggs (1998-1999)
Stat Line (two years): .289/.360/.391, 9 HR, 81 RBI, 1.3 WAR
Boggs would of made the starting lineup on a handful of teams’ all-time 25-man roster. However, the corner infielder is blocked out by Evan Longoria at third (his primary position) and probably shouldn’t be put at first, considering the fact he only played four games at the position during his two seasons with the Rays.
He’s the only [current] Hall of Famer to ever play in a Rays uniform, and the only Ray ever to have his number retired at Tropicana Field.
Nobody can ever forget his magical moment at the Trop in ’99, when Boggs blasted a home run into the right field seats for his milestone 3,000th career hit.
Backup Infielder: Jason Bartlett (2008-2010)
Stat Line (three years): .288/.349/.403, 61 SB, 19 HR, 150 RBI, 8.6 WAR
This roster needs a backup middle-infielder, and Jason Bartlett’s just the guy for the job. Bartlett was very valuable to the Rays as their starting shortstop for three seasons, as his 8.6 WAR that he posted in just 400 games suggests.
He hit well for average and did pretty well getting on base, as you can see from the numbers above. He was also a solid and consistent defender at short.
Bartlett had one standout year in Tampa Bay, when he hit .320/.389/.490 with 5.5 WAR and 140 wRC+ in 2009. He was also selected to the All-Star Game that season.
Backup Outfielder/ Right-Handed Pinch Hitter: Rocco Baldelli (2003-2008, 2010)
Stat Line (six years): .280/.324/.444, 53 HR, 7.7 WAR
A rare muscle disease was probably the only reason Baldelli never rose as an MLB star. He was still a fan favorite and a hometown hero in Tampa Bay throughout his injury-riddled career, though.
Rocco enjoyed early success in his first two seasons (’03-’04), and in his third season (’06) after returning from a season-long injury. It would only go downhill from there, however, as the injuries got worse.
Baldelli played at the end of the 2008 season, and also bolstered the Rays’ offense in the postseason. After playing one year in Boston after that, he retired at the age of 29, playing his last season with the Rays in 2010.
Just Missed the Cut
Stat Line (two years): .275/.329/.479, 40 HR, 128 RBI, 1.8 WAR
Utility man Ty Wiggington’s versatility and power was almost enough to put him on this roster.
Stat Line (three years): .281/.354/.393, 104 RBI, 29 SB, 6.6 WAR
Aki was a big part of the Rays’ championship team in ’08, serving as their leadoff hitter while hitting pretty well for average during his three seasons in Tampa Bay.
Stat Line (six years): .235/.329/.455, 66 HR, 1.5 WAR
Gomes was just edged out by Baldelli on the roster as the backup outfielder/right-handed pinch hitter. He was one of the Rays best home-run hitters during the six seasons he played with them, but Baldelli is simply the better all-around player.
Stat Line (five years): .279/.342/.400, 24 HR, 80 SB, 6.0 WAR
Winn’s ability to play all three outfield positions, hit for average and steal bases put him in the conversation to make this roster.
Stat Line (five years): .252/.289/.365, 35 HR, 2.1 WAR
As stated in the article, Dioner Navarro just beats out Flaherty as the backup catcher on this roster.
Stat Line (two-plus years): 21-13, 3.14 ERA, 5.99 K/9, 1.7 WAR
Hellickson just hasn’t pitched long enough to make the roster, but he still deserves an honorable mention.
Stat Line (one year): 3-2, 1.73 ERA, 45 SV, 1.5 WAR
Soriano was amazing and had a career year in his 2010 season with the Rays, when he helped the team win their second division title. But just one season—even as good as Soriano’s—is not enough for me to put a player on this roster.
As many expected, Rays’ young fireballer Matt Moore has gotten his act together after a slow start to his 2012 rookie season. After posting an ERA of roughly 4.80 in his first 10 starts of the year, Moore has turned things around in the past month. In his last five starts, he’s posted a 3-1 record with a 2.64 ERA.
It appears as if the best is still ahead of Moore, who has a history of starting slow throughout his professional career. Moore’s track record of early-season struggles is the main reason why nobody should be at all surprised by his gradual improvement over the past few weeks.
Despite the success he’s had during his years spent in the minors, numbers clearly show that Moore has always had trouble in the first quarter of the season. The table below shows Moore’s stats of the first month or so for every year he’s played full-season ball:
And here were the results of all three of those seasons:
(Data courtesy of DRaysBay.com)
As you can see, Moore’s command has been by far the biggest thing hurting him early on in the season. While the the strikeout rates seems to stay high the entire season, the walk rates are usually much higher in the beginning of the season than the rest of the year.
This year has been no exception. Getting batters to swing and miss has not been a problem for Moore at all, as his whiff % and velocities have not been a real issue. While his strikeout stuff have not been lacking, his ability to throw strikes has. His overall performance has and always will coincide with his walk rates, as the simple fact remains year after year for the young lefty: The Moore (pun intended) strikes he throws, the better.
As I said before, strike throwing is the key to his success, and Moore’s numbers are probably not going to be too good until he gets his K % up to around 30% (lower than they’ve ever been in his pro career) and his BB % down to about 10% or lower (currently at 11%). It’s a goal that Moore has proven he’s capable of achieving and he’ll likely excel in this league once he gets there.
While his strike-throwing ratios are something that have changed during his recent improvement, there’s another change that’s definitely worth noticing. Suprisingly, Moore’s pitch selection has seen a pretty significant difference between his bad starts and his better (and more recent) starts.
In his first six starts of the season, which were much worse than his last seven, Moore was throwing more fastballs and less offspeed stuff. His fastball percentage dropped to roughly 68% after throwing a bit over 72% heat (including every type of fastball) in his first six starts. Mixing in a heavier dose of offspeed pitches—especially changeups (which has had the largest increase in selection)—has seemingly helped Moore pitch better.
It makes sense that Moore has thrown a higher percentage of changeups lately, which has been a ‘secret weapon’ for him this year. With such an outstanding fastball, Moore’s changeup is devastating to almost every right-handed batter (0% whiff rate vs LHP) he faces.
It’s become his go-to pitch after the heater, and theres’s a good reason why as Moore has thrown it with a a whiff rate at about 18%. The changeup is by far his best secondary pitch, and will carry him in the coming years as he continues to develop into a big league star.
In conclusion, Moore will be very effective in the Rays’ rotation this year if he can keep improving his command and continue his success against right-handed hitters with the changeup . The key for him is to locate his pitches well and avoid a large amount of walks, but how he utilizes his offspeed pitches will likely be the X-factor.
The pitch F/X data used in this article was from TexasLeaguers.com.
Over the past few years, B.J. Upton’s name has been subject to countless trade rumors. It seems like every time the trade deadline or offseason approaches one big question remains: will the Rays deal Upton?
The MLB trade deadline is now just a little over a month away, which means the Upton-trade talk will soon begin to flare up again. Although an Upton trade is definitely a possibility, I don’t think the Rays will deal him, and there are great reasons why.
If one thing’s for sure, the Rays are in it to win it this season. Tampa is confident that they have a team with what it takes to go all the way in October, and trading away one of their key pieces would not make a whole lot of sense, even considering the circumstances regarding Upton’s contract.
Although Upton has underachieved and hasn’t really met expectations in the last few years, a more extensive look into Upton clearly show how vital he is to the team’s success. Last year, he finished top thee on the team in RBI, WAR and home runs. In addition, he also lead the team with stolen bases (sparking a huge part of the Rays’ game) and provided the Rays with security by playing consistently good defense in center field.
His stats overall were not All-Star like, but the offensive production he provides to a linuep with limited power bats is absolutely crucial, which is what makes him more of a valuable player than his numbers show.
So why would the Rays trade B.J. Upton? Well, there obviously are credible reasons for doing so. Upton will be a free agent next year, and the money he’ll be asking for will likely be too much for the Rays to afford. The Rays also have a centerfield replacement for Upton in Desmond Jennings, who seems very capable of taking over at the position.
If the Rays do choose to trade him before the deadline, they’ll probably get some pretty good value from the 27-year-old. Upton has had a solid start to the 2012 season, batting .280/.327/.418, which is an improvement from last year’s .243 batting average. The good numbers probably would help Upton’s value if the Rays decided to trade him, but it also shows how important he is to the Rays’ lineup, which will likely not be one of the better ones in October (assuming they make it there).
The point is, the Rays could use every bit of offense they can get, and trading a bat away would most likely not help (probably hurt) the team in the short run. Long-term success is something that the front office always strives for, but we all know that winning a World Series this fall is the team’s ultimate goal when it’s all said and done.
Back a couple of months ago, I evaluated the Rays’ top five prospects according to MLB.com’s current rankings. Last month, we checked in on their progress in the Rays’ system after the first month of the season, and it’s about time for the next monthly update. Here’s the current status of the Rays’ top five minor league prospects.
After a poor start to the 2012 season, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee seems to be on the right track with a good start to the month of June.
Lee, considered the Rays’ top position player prospect at the moment, has put up a .245/.313/.320 line with 16 RBI and stolen bases (caught seven times) for Double-A Montgomery this season. Obviously the offensive numbers don’t meet expectations, but he has started to turn up the heat in the past couple of weeks. In the last 10 games, Lee has hit .333 and blasted a pair of home runs (his only homers of the season).
Defensively, it’s also been a struggle for Lee this year. He has put up a .948 fielding percentage at short, which would be the worst in his career with the Rays’ organization if it doesn’t improve.
After a poor start to the season, Archer seemed to heading in the right direction with a much better month of May. He won the International League Pitcher of the Week award in the month’s second week, and ended the month 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA. But unfortunately for Archer and the Rays, the young right-hander is faltering again this month as his rather disappointing season continues.
Archer has posted a 3-8 record with an ERA of 5.04 for Triple-A Durham this season, and his command issues are a huge reason why. Although he strikes out plenty of batters, he also walks a bunch, averaging 5.2 walks per nine innings. It’s a ratio that’s going to need to improve if he wants to earn a big league promotion any time soon.
Beckham has been a disappointment for the Rays ever since he was drafted first overall in the 2008 MLB Draft, and the 2012 season has been no exception. After playing the first 13 games of the season with Triple-A Durham, the 22-year-old shortstop was suspended 50 games for drug use (marijuana).
The suspension seriously hurt his chances of a late-season promotion to the majors, which the Rays were looking forward to before the season started. He began the season hitting just .204/.290/.278 with four RBI and no homers.
Beckham could return to action later this month.
Drafted out of LSU in the first round of last year’s Draft, outfielder Mikie Mahtook has had a consistently solid first year in the Rays’ system.
He’s put up a .275/.327/.365 line and knocked in 25 runs after 59 games with Class A Advanced Charlotte. His power—which was displayed throughout his college career—has yet to blossom at the professional level, as Mahtook has gone yard just twice (14 extra-base hits on the year).
His plus speed, however, has been impressive this season. Mahtook has stolen 13 bases and has been caught just four times.
On the defensive side of things, Mahtook has split time between right field and center field. He has committed three errors and thrown out six runners thus far.
Another young exciting arm in the Rays’ organization, 19-year-old right-hander Taylor Guerrieri has yet to throw a pitch at the professional level. Guerreri—who was also drafted by the Rays in the first round last summer—began the season in extended spring training, and will join Rookie League Princeton to big his journey through the minors.
Guerrieri is scheduled to join Princeton as part of their rotation next week, when the Appalachian League’s season starts.
The Rays had a much quieter Draft this year than they did in 2011, but they continued to stock up their system with plenty of talent. In the first five rounds—which was the five picks in the Rays’ case—the Rays went after athletic upside prospects, an intelligent approach considering the Rays’ reputation to transform athletes into ballplayers. On the other hand, however, much of the selections after Shaffer were very raw players. Here’s my grades on every draft pick from the first five rounds:
Round 1 (25th overall): Richie Shaffer, 1B/3B/OF
The Rays probably picked up the most powerful college bat in the Draft by selecting corner infielder Richie Shaffer with the 25th overall pick. Not only does Shaffer have big-time home run power, but he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields and knows how to work a count. The 21-year-old also offers some versatility, which will obviously help in fit in with the Rays’ organization. He was drafted as a third baseman, but he’s very capable of playing third and his strong arm also profiles wells in right field, which could be his future home. The Rays got a pretty high-value pick with Shaffer at No. 25, as many experts predicted him being taken somewhere between 10-25 overall in the Draft. He has a high ceiling, and his three years of college ball should help him early on in the minors. There’s a lot to like about this pick from the Rays.
Round 2 (88th overall): Spencer Edwards, SS/OF
Drafted as a shortstop out of Rockwall High School in Texas, Edwards has excellent speed that will likely land him in center field. Although he has a good arm, it’s a question whether he’ll produce enough power to stay at the position in the future. However, if he adds some weight to his skinny frame he could add power. Edwards is toolsy, and another plus side to him is that he’s a switch hitter.
Round 3 (119th overall): Andrew Toles, OF
Another great athlete with plus speed and good set of tools, Toles—a junior out of Chipola College—came as a pretty good value pick at 119th overall. Power is the only part of his game that’s not average or above, but he is a very good contact hitter. The 5-foot-9 left-handed hitter has drawn comparison to big league outfielders Ben Revere and Michael Bourn, two guys the Rays hope Toles can match one day.
Round 4 (152nd overall): Nolan Gannon, RHP
The first pitcher taken by the Rays in this draft, 6-foot-5 Nolan Gannon has plenty of upside. Although his ceiling for potential is high, is floor for failure is just as low. In the fourth round, I don’t think it’s a bad idea on the Rays part to go after risky high schoolers like Gannon, especially if they’re as tall as he is and have plenty of room to grow into their tall frame. At just 175 pounds, Gannon’s obviously very skinny, which means that there’s a good chance he’ll add velocity to his fastball, which currently sits between the high 80′s and lower 90′s. His mechanics lag behind a little, so we’ll see if the minors can straighten him out early on.
Round 5 (182nd overall): Bralin Jackson, OF
The drafted yet another good athlete with good upside in Missouri high schooler Bralin Jackson. Jackson has very good bat speed with some pop, as well as good speed which adds to his potential. He’s still very raw however, and seriously needs work on his plate approach overall. Defensively he’s nothing special, but does have a strong arm. It’s another pick that’s a bit risky for the Rays, but it’s solid value in the fifth round.
Like Day 1 in the MLB Draft, Day 2 also had a slow-paced feel to it for the Rays. The Rays picked one player per round in rounds 2-15 Tuesday, in a day that the Rays snagged a handful of athletic upside prospects with raw talent. Here’s a review of all the Rays picks from Day 2:
Round 2 (88th overall): Spencer Edwards, SS/OF, 4/7/1993
School: Rockwall HS (Texas)
Scouting Report (via MLB.com): Edwards has incredible speed and great range at shortstop but might be better suited in center field. He has great arm strength and more than enough speed to play there. At the plate, he is still a bit raw but possesses great bat speed that could mean more power in the future. Just about every team in baseball would love to have a switch-hitting center fielder with game-changing speed and the ability to add more power.
ETA: Around 2017
Round 3 (119th overall): Andrew Toles, OF, 5/24/1992
School: Chipola College (JC)
Scouting Report: The son of a former first-round NFL pick, Toles is a great athlete with speed and overall defense. His small frame doesn’t produce much power at all, but he has the ability to hit for average. Toles can be to compared to Braves CF Michael Bourn and Twins OF Ben Revere. He was ranked 102 overall by Baseball America, which is a higher ranking than Spencer Edwards (175).
Round 4 (152nd overall): Nolan Gannon, RHP, 11/3/1993
School: Santa Fe Christian HS (California)
Scouting Report (via PerfectGame.org): Nolan Gannon is a 2012 RHP with a 6-5 195 lb. frame from San Diego, CA who attends Santa Fe Christian HS. Profile pitcher’s build, long lean and projectable. Full hands over head delivery, high compact arm action, arm works well out front, good downhill angle to pitches. Steady 90-92 mph fastball, maintains velocity very well, good boring action on fastball when down. Raises release point on curveball to get over it, good spin and depth, 12/6 shape, will have to work on consistent release point to avoid tipping pitch to advanced hitters. Still developing change up. Very good right now and should keep getting better. Good student.
Round 5 (182nd overall): Bralin Jackson, OF, 12/2/1993
School: Raytown South HS (Mo.)
Scouting Report: I thought it was the coolest thing that the Rays drafted someone from a place called ‘Raytown’. Jackson’s a toolsy outfielder with good upside. He has good bat speed, but needs to work on his approach at the plate.
Round 6 (212nd overall): Damion Carroll, RHP, 1/31/1994
School: King George HS (Va.)
Scouting Report (via MLB.com): Coming from a small school in Virginia, Carroll doesn’t have a Division I commitment. This, however, only makes teams more interested because of signability. The big righty throws his fastball from 91-94 mph and has touched 95. Carroll is considerably raw and has below-average secondary pitches that include a power curve and a changeup. Because of his signability, large frame, and upside, Carroll could come off the board fairly early in the Draft.
Round 7 (242nd overall): Marty Gantt, OF, 2/11/1990
School: College of Charleston
Scouting Report: Gantt was born with an underdeveloped right hand, but it didn’t stop him from hitting .373/.483/.614 with 46 RBI and 29 stolen bases for the College of Charleston this season. He has solid skills, and hopefully his perseverance will one day carry him to the big leagues.
Round 8 (272nd overall): Luke Maile, C/1B, 2/6/1991
School: University of Kentucky
Scouting Report (via BaseballAmerica): Maile is the biggest power threat on a Kentucky team that won its first 22 games and led the Southeastern Conference for much of the regular season. A 6-foot-3, 220-pound righthanded hitter, Maile has good strength and made some needed adjustments at the plate this year without compromising his solid pop. He has shortened his swing, made more consistent contact and caught up to better fastballs. He has good patience at the plate. Offense definitely is the strength of Maile’s game, and scouts remain unconvinced that he can catch regularly in pro ball. He has shared duties behind the plate the last two years with Michael Williams while also seeing extensive time at first base. Maile has average arm strength but a long release, and he doesn’t look pretty as a receiver. To his credit, he did throw out 56 percent of basestealers during the regular season. He also moves well enough to make left field a possible destination.
Round 9 (302nd overall): Joseph Rickard, OF, 5/21/1991
School: University of Arizona
Scouting Report (via CollegeBaseballDaily.com): Rickard stepped right into the Wildcats lineup as a freshman playing in all 58 games (57 starts) hitting .307 with eight homers and 51 RBI. He also led the squad with 13 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
He continued his strong college career as a sophomore finishing second on the squad with a .347 batting average while hitting four homers and driving in 37 runs. He finished second on the team with 16 stolen bases in 24 attempts.
Rickard spent the summer of 2011 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks. He appeared in a total of 44 games with a .300 batting average and 18 RBI. He also chipped in 15 stolen bases on the summer. Joey was named a CCBL All-Star playing at the 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star game at Fenway Park as he went 0-1 in the game.
Round 10 (332nd overall): Sean Bierman, LHP, 10/20/1988
School: University of Tampa
Scouting Report: The first southpaw selected by the Rays in this draft, Bierman doesn’t have great stuff and doesn’t have a future as a starter.
Round 11 (362nd overall): Clayton Henning, CF, 11/9/1993
School: St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Kan.)
Scouting Report: Not much information that I can provide you with here, but word on the street is that he has speed. “I ran a 6.4 (60-yard dash),” he said yesterday during an interview. He hit .434 in his junior year, and is committed to the University of Dayton.
Round 12 (392nd overall): Taylor Hawkins, C, 9/17/1993
School: Carl Albert HS (Oklahoma)
Scouting Report: Hawkins is an athletic catcher with big-time home run power.
Round 13 (422nd overall): Dylan Floro, RHP, 12/27/1990
School: Cal-State Fullerton
Scouting Report: Drafted by the Rays already in 2009, Floro went 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA in his junior year with Cal-State Fullerton.
Round 14 (452nd overall): Christopher Kirsch, LHP, 11/15/1991
School: Lackawanna College (JC)
Scouting Report: Another lefty, Kirsch has four pitches in his arsenal and can throws a fastball up into the lower 90′s. He was ranked No. 316 overall by Baseball America.
Round 15 (482nd overall): Willian Gabay, RHP, 7/3/1991
School: Herkimer County CC
Scouting Report: A undersized right-hander, Gabay can throw between 91-94 and will quickly find himself in the bullpen.
With the 25th overall pick in 2012′s MLB First-Year Player Draft Monday night, the Rays selected power-hitting corner infielder Richie Shaffer out of Clemson University. The 21-year-old hit .325/.448/.562 with 30 homers and 137 RBI after three seasons with the Tigers, and .351/.481/.600 with nine homers last season in his Junior year.
Shaffer—a right-handed batter—is an excellent hitter overall, and was considered one of the top college position players in the draft. The 6-foot-3 205-pounder’s outstanding power is what made him a first rounder, and his skills at the plate are impressive overall. He does have some holes in his swing, but he knows how to work a count (draws a lot of walks) and can hit well to all parts of the field. He’s drawn comparison to All-Star third basemen Ryan Zimmerman and David Freese, although it’s debatable whether his potential is equal to the likes of those two.
Defensively, Shaffer is a bit of a question mark moving forward. Third base is his primary position, as that’s where he’s had the most experience in his college career. However, he can play both first base and right field, which could be possible homes for him in the future. Scouting director R.J. Harrison and the Rays are considering Shaffer as a third baseman at the moment, and they’ll likely need to see him in the minors for a while before they make any position changes. Although his range is not that good, he has a great arm that fits well for both the hot corner and right field, and a 6’3” stature that should work fine for first base. He may not excel at any one position, but the Rays will still make the best out of his versatility.
At the end of the day, I think this is a great pick on the Rays’ part. It’s the second consecutive year that they’ve drafted a polished college bat (Mikie Mahtook last June) in two drafts that didn’t have much to offer from the college position-player pool. With his big-time power, I believe Shaffer has just as much offensive upside as anybody in this draft. He has a high ceiling for potential, and the Rays have plenty reason to hope he will develop into an impact hitter in their organization. I think Shaffer’s college success will translate into the pros, and his big bat should carry him rather quickly up the minor league ranks.
Just a day away from the start, the Rays come into the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft with a much different look from last June. After having a record 12 picks in the first two rounds of last year’s draft, the Rays won’t have their first choice until the 25th selection and won’t have another until the 88th pick. Also, the Rays do not have the benefit of compensatory picks this year, which will give their draft a much slower feel as Tampa had seven compensatory picks in 2011.
The Rays will be limited financially as well, as the new Collective Bargaining Agreement puts a cap on every team’s bonus distribution. The Rays will have to manage with just $3.871 million to allot amongst their first 10 draft picks.
Don’t expect to see the Rays seeking a specific position in the draft, as team scouting director R.J. Harrison recently stressed the fact that the Rays organization never looks at depth in any one position. What we can expect, however, is the Rays to take high school players rather than college players early in draft. Harrison seems to like the talent he sees from the high school players this year, but still nothing is for certain at all. Another trend to look out for is where the Rays draft from. The Rays have a history with a handful of draftees from the Northwest Pacific region.
Possibilities for the Rays in the first round
Who will the Rays select with the 25th overall pick Monday night—that’s the million-dollar question. Let’s take a look at some possible names, starting with three mock drafts (volume 1 of all three):
- ESPN (Keith Law): Carson Kelly, 3B, Westview H.S. (Portland, Ore.). Height, weight:6-2, 200. B/T: R/R
Kelly is a two-way prospect who has strong hands but a noisy lower half. He’s the best player available for the Rays, a team with a history of drafting top talent from the Pacific Northwest, such as 2011 supplemental first-rounders Jeff Ames and Blake Snell.
- Baseball America (Jim Callis): Ty Hensley, RHP, Edmond Santa Fe H.S. (Edmond, OK). Height, weight: 6-5, 220
After having a record 12 selections in the first two rounds in 2011, Tampa Bay will have to make its picks count now with no extra choices and a relatively small $3.8 million bonus pool for the top 10 rounds. The Rays develop high school pitchers as well as anyone, and Ty Hensley could give them another potential frontline starter.
- Minor League Ball (John Sickels): D.J. Davis, OF, Stone H.S. (Wiggins, MS). Height, weight: 6-0, 170. B/T: L/R
There are all kinds of scenarios that make sense here. I’ll look for a premium tool and pick the fastest man in the draft, prep outfielder D.J. Davis, who has made enough progress with the rest of his game this year to push into first round consideration. D.J. Davis, OF, Mississippi HS.
Ty Hensley is my guess for the Rays’ first pick, as I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a talented high school arm in their first overall pick for the second consecutive year (Taylor Guerrieri in ’11). The Rays’ starting pitching surplus won’t be a factor in deciding whether to draft pitching early, as Harrison clearly stated that they’re looking for the best available player. Here are some other possibilities for the Rays in the first round:
- Stephen Piscotty (3B/OF, Stanford): If the Rays decide to take a college bat for their first pick, third baseman Stephen Piscotty could definitely be a possibility. Piscotty has hit .335/.425/.488 for Stanford this season with 53 RBI and 5 homers. In 2011, he led the Cape Cod League (a wooden bat league) with a .349 average. He’s a very good hitter overall, and his 6-3, 205 pound stature translates into some decent power. Defensively, he has a great arm over at third but has some issues with his footwork. However, many scouts believe he’ll fit just fine in a corner outfield position anyways.
- Stryker Trahan (C, Acadiana H.S, LA): Many scouts consider Trahan as the nation’s best high school catcher, and there are clear reasons why. He has great agility and quickness behind the plate, despite his large 6-foot-1, 220 pound frame. His arm isn’t too strong, but it’s very accurate and he releases the ball quick. The Ole Miss commit also runs surprisingly fast, and provides big-time power and good bat speed from the left side. Most can agree he’s the second-best catcher overall in this year’s Draft, after Florida’s Mike Zuzino who will likely be drafted very early Monday night.