To top Rays officials, this is the biggest week of the year. It has nothing to do with playing the Marlins and the Mariners but is totally tied into the annual draft, which begins Thursday. How much does the draft mean to the long-term success of the Tampa Bay organization? "Everything," is the first word executive VP Andrew Friedman comes up with, acknowledging the need to keep their system stocked. With the draft as our theme, here's a look ahead — the Rays' initial pick Thursday is No. 20 — and a look back at their first 18 drafts:
Rays' best and worst picks
Rating draft classes is always subjective, predicated on the criteria — how good the players turned out to be, how much they helped the drafting team — as well as when the evaluating is being done (some say it takes five-six years to fairly judge). Arguably, the Rays' best class was 2006, which yielded three frontline players, 3B Evan Longoria (1st round), RHP Alex Cobb (4th) and OF Desmond Jennings (10th). And the worst was 2001 when, picking third, they started with RHP Dewon Brazelton and went down from there, with no impact players and only complementary pieces at best (i.e., Jonny Gomes).
Ranking the individual picks is also challenging, especially if you factor in what the other options were, but based on their impact on the organization, here's our list:
1. 3B Evan Longoria, 2006, 3rd overall
Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw were options, but hard to quibble with a franchise player.
2. LHP David Price, 2007, 1st overall
Not much of a decision as he was the consensus No. 1 choice — and it worked out pretty well.
3. OF Carl Crawford, 1999, 2nd round, 52nd overall
What seemed a reach turned out to be quite a catch as he signed, developed into an All-Star.
4. RHP James Shields, 2000, 16th round, 466th overall
Rays saw past his high school injuries, stayed patient in development, reaped huge rewards.
5. 1B Aubrey Huff, 1998, 5th round, 162nd overall
Was a pretty good player on some pretty bad teams, then landed them Ben Zobrist in trade.
Five more to consider
OF Rocco Baldelli, 2000, 1st round, 6th overall
RHP Jeremy Hellickson, 2005, 4th round, 118th overall
OF Desmond Jennings, 2006, 10th round, 289th overall
LHP Matt Moore, 2007, 8th round, 245th overall
OF B.J. Upton, 2002, 1st round, 2nd overall
1. RHP Wade Townsend, 2005, 8th overall
In a draft stacked with talent, Rays managed to whiff with the only one of the top 16 picks not to make it.
2. RHP Dewon Brazelton, 2001, 3rd overall
With Mark Teixeira among those sitting there, Rays went off the board and missed miserably.
3. INF Tim Beckham, 2008, 1st overall
His slow progress (and injury) is magnified by whom the Rays could have had, starting with Buster Posey.
4. 1B Paul Wilder, 1996, 29th overall
Devil Rays tried for a big bat with their first first-round pick and ended up with a big bust.
5. OF Josh Hamilton, 1999, 1st overall
Right choice couldn't have turned out more wrong as drug issues derailed/delayed All-Star career.
Five more to consider
SS Reid Brignac, 2004, 2nd round, 45th overall
OF Elijah Dukes, 2002, 3rd round, 72nd overall
OF Jason Pridie, 2003, 2nd round, 43rd overall
2B Levon Washington, 2009, 30th overall (didn't sign)
OF Delmon Young, 2008, 1st overall
Here's the latest mock draft guesses for the No. 20 pick:
RHP Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
ESPN's Keith Law:
1B Kyle Schwarber, Indiana
OF Monte Harrison, Lee's Summit West (Mo.) HS
The Rays have the No. 20 pick for the first time in 19 years of drafts. So what does history tell us?
• Of the 49 players chosen 20th, 28 made it to the majors, though fewer than 10 would be considered impact players.
• The best No. 20 picks:
RHP Mike Mussina, 1990 Orioles, 270-153, 3.68 ERA in 537 games
LHP CC Sabathia, 1998 Indians, 208-119, 3.63 ERA in 423 games
OF Torii Hunter, 1993 Twins, .279 avg., 322 HR, .801 OPS in 2,135 games
RHP Bob Welch, 1977 Dodgers, 211-146, 3.47 ERA in 520 games
RHP Rick Rhoden, 1971 Dodgers, 151-125, 3.59 ERA in 427 games
• Two of the 20s were not only Tampa Bay area products, but both from Tampa Catholic:
RHP Rich Monteleone, by the Tigers in 1982
OF Denard Span, by the Twins in 2002
The big 6-0
There have been no real stars drafted at No. 60 and signed, with RHP Lynn McGlothen probably the best with an 86-93, 3.98 record. But two pretty good players were drafted 60th, declined to sign and were taken higher later:
OF Fred Lynn
60th by the Yankees in 1970
41st by the Red Sox in 1973
.283 avg., 306 HR, .845 OPS
1B Steve Garvey
60th by the Twins in 1966
13th by the Dodgers in 1968
.294 avg., 272 HR, .775 OPS
A look at the Rays' past top draft picks by year:
(x-played for Rays; y-played in the majors but not for the Rays; m-in minors; z-never made the majors)
Year (No.) Player
1996 (29) OF Paul Wilder-z
1997 (31) RHP Jason Standridge-x
1998 (132) 1B Josh Pressley-z
1999 (1) OF Josh Hamilton-y
2000 (6) OF Rocco Baldelli-x
2001 (3) RHP Dewon Brazelton-x
2002 (2) CF B.J. Upton-x
2003 (1) OF Delmon Young-x
2004 (4) RHP Jeff Niemann-x
2005 (8) RHP Wade Townsend-z
2006 (3) 3B Evan Longoria-x
2007 (1) LHP David Price-x
2008 (1) INF Tim Beckham-x
OF LeVon Washington-m
2010 (17) OF Josh Sale-m
2011 (24) RHP Taylor Guerrieri-m
2012 (25) 3B Richie Shaffer-m
2013 (21) C Nick Ciuffo-m
• Calling up RHP Alex Colome the day after his 50-game PED suspension ended was the right move baseball-wise but the wrong message to the other candidates at Triple A, which Rays manager Joe Maddon at least seemed to acknowledge.
• Not only have the Rays been away from home a lot, this is their third three-city trip. Oakland is the only other MLB team with three extended trips thus far. The upside? The Rays play 18 of their next 21 at the Trop, and have only two more three-city journeys.
• Purely for entertainment purposes, we inform you that the Red Sox are back at the Trop July 25-27 and Aug. 29-Sept. 1.
The Rays didn't submit any changes to their uniforms by MLB's May 31 deadline, so expect the same look (thus no Tampa Bay on the road jerseys) in 2015. … Per Baseball Prospectus' computer simulations, the Rays went into the weekend with a 16.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. … There was no talk at the last owners meeting of switching to a more balanced schedule, a key change the Rays have lobbied for. … C Eddy Rodriguez, released recently from Triple-A Durham, tweeted that he took a coaching job in the Red Sox system. … Sun Sports debuts a new Inside the Rays on 1B James Loney after today's game.
Got a minute? | Ali Solis
Food you hate? Pasta
Must-see TV? El Senor de los Cielos (Telemundo series based on Mexican drug lord)
Go-to karaoke song? Your Love by the Outfield
Best meal you can make? Steak on the grill
Favorite movie? Act of Valor