It seems unfair for a team like the Tampa Bay Rays to compete in a division with some of the most historic franchises in baseball history. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Orioles have accomplishments that date back many decades.
The Rays on the other hand, stand alongside the Arizona Diamondbacks as the most recently founded MLB teams. However, since their inaugural season after the 1998 expansion, the Rays have seen several All-Stars and playoff berths in their brief history. The Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat ranks their top five players as follows:
(Note: These rankings are based solely on each players WAR during their career with the Tampa Bay Rays. All WAR statistics are from Baseball Reference. The batting statistics can be accessed here and the pitching information can be found here.)
5) David Price: 2008-2014 (Career Rays WAR: 21.3)
- Career Stats (11 years /Current): 289 games started, 143 wins, 3.25 ERA, 1,853 strikeouts
- Rays Stats (7 years): 170 games started, 82 wins, 3.18 ERA, 1,065 strikeouts
Price, the lone pitcher on this list, is the Rays all-time ERA leader. He was also instrumental in the team’s postseason efforts in the last 2000s. While his career playoff ERA leaves a lot to be desired, Price was a part of the all four postseason appearances in the team’s history. In fact, the team has yet to clinch a postseason berth since his departure in 2014.
4) Kevin Kiermaier: 2013-2018 (Career Rays WAR: 24.0)
- Career Stats (6 years /Current): 1,914 at bats, 252 runs, 54 home runs, 180 RBI, 70 stolen bases, .254 BA
- Rays Stats (6 years): Kiermaier has played his entire career with Tampa Bay.
Despite only six seasons in Tampa Bay, Kiermaier has managed to crack the top five players in the Rays’ short history. While his career stats do not seem overly impressive, he is an elite defensive player. The two-time Gold Glove winner is in a position to move up on this list in the coming seasons.
3) Carl Crawford: 2002-2010 (Career Rays WAR: 35.6)
- Career Stats (15 years): 6,655 at bats, 998 runs, 136 home runs, 766 RBI, 480 stolen bases, .290 BA
- Rays Stats (9 years): 4,992 at bats, 765 runs, 104 home runs, 592 RBI, 409 stolen bases, .296 BA
Crawford was one of the most dangerous base runners in the league during his tenure in Tampa Bay. He is the Ray’s franchise leader in hits, singles, triples, and stolen bases. The four-time All-Star is a former Gold Glover and Silver Slugger winner (both in 2010). He was also a key factor in the teams sole World Series appearance in 2008.
2) Ben Zobrist: 2006-2014 (Career Rays WAR: 36.0)
- Career Stats (13 years /Current): 5,730 at bats, 860 runs, 166 home runs, 751 RBI, 116 stolen bases, .266 BA
- Rays Stats (9 years): 3,850 at bats, 565 runs, 114 home runs, 511 RBI, 102 stolen bases, .264 BA
Despite playing over a decade in the major leagues, Zobrist doesn’t have a natural position. He is truly a unique utility man with 17 starts at first base, 547 at second base, 4 starts at third, 229 at shortstop, 66 in left field, 34 in center field, and 331 in right field during his Rays career. Zobrist played in two All-Star games with Tampa Bay. His super-utility skills were also a vital part of the team’s four playoff appearances during his Rays career.
1) Evan Longoria: 2008-2017 (Career Rays WAR: 50.0)
- Career Stats (11 Years / Current): 5,930 at bats, 831 runs, 277 home runs, 946 RBI, 54 stolen bases, .268 BA
- Rays Stats (10 years): 5,450 at bats, 780 runs, 261 home runs, 892 RBI, 51 stolen bases, .270 BA
Longoria is clearly the best player to ever wear a Rays’ jersey. He is the team’s leader in runs, at bats, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBI, and games played. In 2008, Longoria won Rookie of the Year and helped lead the Rays to their first Word Series appearance. He also was the best player on three additional trips to the League Division Series. He was selected to three All-Star teams and won three Gold Glove awards during his time in Tampa.