The MLB Draft.
Sure it’s not as hyped as say, the NFL Draft. Let’s face it – no sport’s draft holds a candle to the shield. However, if you’re a Tampa Bay Rays fan, there have been plenty of moments since the very first draft in team history way back in 1999 that hold a very special…or not so special…place in all our hearts. Here’s a look back over every first round draft pick in Rays history as we lead up to the 2016 MLB Draft Thursday night.
1999 – OF Josh Hamilton. The very first overall pick by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays and a man who has battled addiction his whole professional life. However, Hamilton held off those demons for quite a few years to put together some absolutely incredible numbers. While he never played a game for Tampa Bay, he went on to hit 200 bombs from 2007-2015 including a career .290 batting avg and .516 career SLG% while being named the 2010 AL MVP (Texas Rangers), five All-Star games (all with TEX), and three Silver Sluggers (all with TEX). After spending two seasons with the Angels from 2013-2014, Hamilton came back to Texas in 2015 but hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He hasn’t played a single game in 2016.
2000 – OF Rocco Baldelli. Rocco’s career was cut short back in 2011 when he retired due to mitochondrial disease that caused him sudden fatigue and muscle problems. He was just 29 years old when he retired and throughout his playing career was compared to a young Joe DiMaggio. Baldelli is now in his second year as the Rays first base coach.
2001 – SP Dewon Brazelton. Quite possibly the biggest first round bust in team history. Brazelton played just five years, all with the Devil Rays, and finished his career with a very disappointing 8-25 record and a staggering 6.38 ERA.
2002 – SS/OF Melvin “BJ” Upton. Spent eight years in Tampa and after converting to centerfield, his career took off. He became a five-tool player for years in the Devil Rays/Rays lineup but after signing a megadeal with the Braves in 2013, his productivity has greatly suffered. Upton has been with the Padres organization since 2015 and this season seems to be getting back on track. Fun fact, the most notable draft pick this year didn’t happen until the 23rd round with a man by the name of Jacoby Ellsbury.
2003 – OF Delmon Young. A player with so much upside but so much baggage. Young had his issues in the minors with on the field spats and bat throws. He broke into the MLB in 2006 with the Devil Rays and played all 162 games for them in 2007 putting up pretty respectable numbers, including 93 RBI and a .288 avg. However he found himself in Minnesota for the next four years where his career really took off, becoming a staple in the middle of the Twins lineup. After brief stints in Detroit and Philadelphia, the Rays brought back Delmon in 2013 but he was very limited, playing in only 23 games. Young has been with the Orioles since 2014.
2004 – SP Jeff Niemann. A very promising career fell victim to injury. The 6-foot, 9-inch Texan saw quite a bit of success in Tampa, finishing his career with a 40-26 record and 4.08 ERA with his best year looking to be 2012 where he finished 2-3 with an ERA just over three before a line drive by Blue Jays, Adam Lind, fractured his leg and put him on the shelf. In April 2013 he underwent shoulder surgery and hasn’t played in MLB since.
2005 – RHP Wade Townsend. Unfortunately he never broke out of the minor leagues and played his last game in 2010.
2006 – 3B Evan Longoria. May have heard of him. He only holds every major offensive record in team history including two Gold Gloves, three-time All-Star, and has finished in the top ten of MVP voting three times. Despite a couple years of “decline,” Longo seems to have gotten that sweet swing back in 2016 as he’s on pace to have a career year at the tender age of 30.
2007 – SP David Price. He only went on to become the first, and only, Cy Young winner in team history. He had seasons of 19 and 20 wins while in Tampa and compiled a 82-47 record in his seven years with the club. After being traded to the Tigers in 2014, Price has since played for the Blue Jays (2015) and signed a mega deal with the Red Sox in the off-season leading up to the 2016 season. His owns a career 111-59 record.
2008 – SS Tim Beckham. Finally broke into MLB in 2013 with the Rays, playing in just five games. Then, in 2015, Beckham began to show that potential the Rays saw drafting him with the first overall pick as he finished the season with 9 HRs and 37 RBI despite hitting .222 in 82 games. “Becks” made the Opening Day roster in 2016 and has struggled having already been demoted once in late May.
2009 – 2B LeVon Washington. He’s been in the Indians organization since 2010 and has yet to advance higher than A-ball.
2010 – RF Josh Sale/C Justin O’Conner. Sale was released in February 2015 after two suspensions of failed drug tests and poor conduct. O’Conner remains in the Rays minor league system as their first real catching prospect.
2011 – SP Taylor Guerrieri/OF Mikie Mahtook. Two of the Rays top prospects, Mahtook was the Rays best hitter in September 2015 after being called up. While Guerrieri has yet to see MLB pitching, he’s been a stud at every level of the Rays minor league system and should see his call up this season.
2012 – 3B Richie Shaffer. Got the call up in 2015 and showed the power he became known for in the lower levels. However, Shaffer hit just .189 in 31 games last season and is currently down in AAA.
2014 – 1B Casey Gillaspie. Could be the future at first base for the Rays real soon. In 2015, Gillaspie hit 17 HR and drove in 48 in 79 games at three different minor league levels. Currently, he’s tearing it up at AA Montgomery hitting .299 with 9 HR and 26 RBI in 56 games.
2015 – OF Garrett Whitley. In 2015, hit .174 with 3 HR and 17 RBI in 42 games at low-A ball. He’s currently on the 2016 Hudson Valley roster.
The Rays have the 13th pick in Thursday’s draft and there’s talk of them taking either 3B Joshua Lowe (Pope HS, GA) or SS Gavin Lux (Indian Trail Academy, WIS) according to the experts at MLB.com. There is also highly touted high school pitcher, Forrest Whitley, out of Alamo Heights High School in Texas.
Matt Silverman heads into his second draft as the Director of Baseball Operations/GM for the Rays.
The 2016 MLB Draft begins at 6 PM EST Thursday on MLB Network.
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