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20 years of the Rays, and their 20 most notable draft picks

20/20 Vision: Looking back at 20 years of the Rays and their 20 most notable draft picks. 20 players who surprisingly finished with Tampa Bay.
Tim Beckham gets ready to hit at Rays winter mini-camp at Tropicana Field Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011.  [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
Tim Beckham gets ready to hit at Rays winter mini-camp at Tropicana Field Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
Published Mar. 24, 2018
Updated Mar. 25, 2018

With the Rays planning a year-long celebration of their 20th anniversary, the Times is taking a look back – with 20 lists of 20 things about those first 20 seasons.

Here are the 20 most notable draft picks — good and bad:

2008 | 1st round | 1st overall
Tim Beckham, 18, smiles after the Tampa Bay Rays selected him as the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft Thursday, June 5, 2008 in Griffin, Ga. (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman)
Tim Beckham, 18, smiles after the Tampa Bay Rays selected him as the No. 1 overall pick in the baseball draft Thursday, June 5, 2008 in Griffin, Ga. (AP Photo/Jenni Girtman)

1. Tim Beckham, infielder

No, it wasn't his fault. But, yes, he'll always be measured, and not well, against Buster Posey, who went fifth to the Giants. (Also, Eric Hosmer went third to the Royals.)

2006 | 1st round | 3rd
Tampa Bay Devil Rays draft pick Evan Longoria , who formerly played at Long Beach State, works out with the Devil Rays prior to their game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field. Longoria was the third overall pick in the first round of the First Year Player Draft on June 6, 2006.Photo by Matt May-US PRESSWIRE
Tampa Bay Devil Rays draft pick Evan Longoria , who formerly played at Long Beach State, works out with the Devil Rays prior to their game against the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field. Longoria was the third overall pick in the first round of the First Year Player Draft on June 6, 2006.Photo by Matt May-US PRESSWIRE

2. Evan Longoria, third base

New ownership's first pick couldn't have worked out any better, a 10-year franchise player who signed two long-term deals and was the consummate pro.

1999 | 1st round | 1st
Josh Hamilton, the first pick in the major league baseball’s amateur draft, wears his new Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat on his front porch in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday June 2, 1999 as he receives congratulatory phone calls. Hamilton became the first high school player selected first since the Seattle Mariners chose Alex Rodriguez with the top pick in 1993. He is projected to be a pro right fielder, even though he has a 94 mph fastball.(AP Photo/Karen Tam)
Josh Hamilton, the first pick in the major league baseball’s amateur draft, wears his new Tampa Bay Devil Rays hat on his front porch in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday June 2, 1999 as he receives congratulatory phone calls. Hamilton became the first high school player selected first since the Seattle Mariners chose Alex Rodriguez with the top pick in 1993. He is projected to be a pro right fielder, even though he has a 94 mph fastball.(AP Photo/Karen Tam)

3. Josh Hamilton, outfielder

He was the right pick, even over Josh Beckett, but it turned out so wrong due to his ongoing drug problems — and then that later decision to let him go elsewhere.

2001 | 1st round | 3rd
Dewon Brazelton pitched at Middle Tennessee State when the Rays took him in the 2001 draft. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) (06/06/01 – Brazelton is the Devil Rays No. 1 draft choice.) WADE PAYNE
Dewon Brazelton pitched at Middle Tennessee State when the Rays took him in the 2001 draft. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) (06/06/01 – Brazelton is the Devil Rays No. 1 draft choice.) WADE PAYNE

4. Dewon Brazelton, pitcher

Saving money cost them big-time, because of how poorly Brazelton did and how good some of the other options were, such as Mark Teixeira and David Wright.

2010 | 31st round | 941st
Kevin Kiermaier, shown here during spring training in 2012, signed with the Rays out of junior college instead of transferring to Purdue.  [Times files]
Kevin Kiermaier, shown here during spring training in 2012, signed with the Rays out of junior college instead of transferring to Purdue.  [Times files]

5. Kevin Kiermaier, outfielder

Credit to scout Tom Couston for seeing Kiermaier at tiny Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and for seeing how good of a player he could turn out to be.

2007 | 1st round | 1st
Caption: Vanderbilt pitcher David Price answers questions from the media during a press conference after being taken as the number one draft pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, June 7, 2007. Photo provided by The Tennessean.
Caption: Vanderbilt pitcher David Price answers questions from the media during a press conference after being taken as the number one draft pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, June 7, 2007. Photo provided by The Tennessean.

6. David Price, pitcher

An obvious choice had an obvious payoff. This worked out pretty well with that 2012 Cy Young Award, though he had a shorter Rays career than Longoria.

2005 | 1st round | 8th
Wade Townsend never pitched in the big leagues. [Times files (2005)]
Wade Townsend never pitched in the big leagues. [Times files (2005)]

7. Wade Townsend, pitcher

Another cost-saving decision — during the ownership transition — that cost them dearly, as Townsend never made it and the 11th pick did: Outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

1999 | 2nd round | 52nd
Carl Crawford was a two-sports star in Texas and signed to play football for Nebraska but never made it to Lincoln after being offered $1.5 million by the Tampa Bay Devil Raysin 1999. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.
Carl Crawford was a two-sports star in Texas and signed to play football for Nebraska but never made it to Lincoln after being offered $1.5 million by the Tampa Bay Devil Raysin 1999. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle.

8. Carl Crawford, outfielder

For all the wrong moves under GM Chuck LaMar, there were some good draft decisions; this was one of the best as Crawford developed into a four-time All-Star.

1996 | 1st round | 29th
Paul Wilder was the first pick in Tampa Bay history.  Robert Willett, Associated Press
Paul Wilder was the first pick in Tampa Bay history.  Robert Willett, Associated Press

9. Paul Wilder, outfielder

Slotted at end of round by MLB, they took a swing for big-time power, but it was a whiff as Wilder never got past Class A. They could have had shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

2000 | 16th round | 466th
James Shields took six years to reach the major leagues after the Rays drafted him in 2000. Photo provided by the Tampa Bay Rays.
James Shields took six years to reach the major leagues after the Rays drafted him in 2000. Photo provided by the Tampa Bay Rays.

10. James Shields, pitcher

Give them credit for seeing past his high school injuries and for staying patient with his slow development, and the payoff reaped huge rewards.

2011 | 1st round | 24th

Rays No. 1 draft choice Taylor Guerrieri talks with media after hitting the showers during the Rays Winter Development Program for select minor league players. [Times files]
Rays No. 1 draft choice Taylor Guerrieri talks with media after hitting the showers during the Rays Winter Development Program for select minor league players. [Times files]
Check out the rest of Marc Topkin’s coverage here, on:

20 words on the 20th anniversary
20 numbers to remember
The 20 weirdest moments
Tampa Bay's 20 'Forrest Gump moments'
20 years of Rays and 'the things we've loved' about them
Greatest moments in franchise history
Best signings, trades and deals
20 players who surprisingly finished with them
20 players you forgot ever played for them
20 most notable draft picks
20 Things we've hated over the years
The 20 best players
The 20 best quotes
Recounting the 20 most memorable injuries
The 20 worst players
Ranking every season

11. Taylor Guerrieri, pitcher

Their first pick, and first flop, in the draft that was supposed to be transformative for the franchise with 10 of the first 60 picks — and yielded them only Blake Snell.

2003 | 1st round | 1st
Adolfo Camarillo High School baseball standout Delmon Young is shown in Camarillo, Calif., in this May 14, 2003 photo. Young, a power-hitting high school outfielder from California, was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s June 3, 2003 baseball draft. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Daily News, Joe Binyoa)
Adolfo Camarillo High School baseball standout Delmon Young is shown in Camarillo, Calif., in this May 14, 2003 photo. Young, a power-hitting high school outfielder from California, was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s June 3, 2003 baseball draft. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Daily News, Joe Binyoa)

12. Delmon Young, outfielder

Not as debatable as Beckham/Posey, they took Young over Rickie Weeks. Though he didn't do much in majors, the trade return (Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza) was good.

2010 | 1st round | 17th
Josh Sale, Tampa Bay Rays top pick, 17th overall, in the 2010 MLB Draft.[Times files (2010)]
Josh Sale, Tampa Bay Rays top pick, 17th overall, in the 2010 MLB Draft.[Times files (2010)]

13. Josh Sale, outfielder

Bad decision all around as bad play (not getting past Class A) and bad behavior (two suspensions) led to spring 2015 release. And Christian Yelich was available.

1996 | 89th round | 1721st
Travis Phelps was the lowest draft choice to ever play in the major leagues when he made his Rays debut in 2001. [Times files (2001)]
Travis Phelps was the lowest draft choice to ever play in the major leagues when he made his Rays debut in 2001. [Times files (2001)]

14. Travis Phelps, pitcher

He didn't have that great of a career, making 79 relief outings over three seasons, but just making it was an accomplishment, the lowest-round pick to reach the majors.

2000 | 1st round | 6th
The Devil Rays No. 1 draft pick, Rocco Baldelli, takes batting practice Sunday morning dressed out in a Devil Rays uniform for the first time. [Times files (2000)]
The Devil Rays No. 1 draft pick, Rocco Baldelli, takes batting practice Sunday morning dressed out in a Devil Rays uniform for the first time. [Times files (2000)]

15. Rocco Baldelli, outfielder

They took a gamble on an athletic kid from Rhode Island who didn't play much baseball, and it was a hit until unforeseen medical issues cut short his career.

2005 | 4th round | 118th
The Tampa Bay Rays named Durham Bulls outfielder Desmond Jennings (left) Most Valuable Minor League Player of the Year and Bulls pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (right) Most Valuable Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Tampa Bay Rays played the Toronto Blue Jays on September 18, 2009 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [Times files (2009)]
The Tampa Bay Rays named Durham Bulls outfielder Desmond Jennings (left) Most Valuable Minor League Player of the Year and Bulls pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (right) Most Valuable Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The Tampa Bay Rays played the Toronto Blue Jays on September 18, 2009 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [Times files (2009)]

16. Jeremy Hellickson, pitcher

Another example of good scouting paying off, with an undersized pitcher from cold-weather Iowa who won a top rookie award, went 40-36 and netted a trade return.

2012 | 1st round | 25th
Tampa Bay Rays first-round draft pick Richie Shaffer talks with the media prior to a game July 13, 2012 against Boston. [Times files (2012)]
Tampa Bay Rays first-round draft pick Richie Shaffer talks with the media prior to a game July 13, 2012 against Boston. [Times files (2012)]

17. Richie Shaffer, infielder

Another bad evaluation on a college player who didn't have much impact and didn't bring much in trade return. Tampa RHP Lance McCullers was available.

2004 | 1st round | 4th
Tampa Bay Devil Rays top draft pick Jeff Niemann wears a Devil Ray hat in the Rays clubhouse at Tropicana Field, Tuesday. [Times files (2004)]
Tampa Bay Devil Rays top draft pick Jeff Niemann wears a Devil Ray hat in the Rays clubhouse at Tropicana Field, Tuesday. [Times files (2004)]

18. Jeff Niemann, pitcher

When healthy, he was good. But getting that 6-foot-9 frame working properly was an ongoing challenge. Worse, they could've had Jered Weaver or Dustin Pedroia.

2013 | 1st round | 21st
Nick Ciuffo. Rays first-round draft pick in xxxx, is serving a 50-game suspension for substance abuse. Photo provided by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Nick Ciuffo. Rays first-round draft pick in xxxx, is serving a 50-game suspension for substance abuse. Photo provided by the Tampa Bay Rays.

19. Nick Ciuffo, catcher

It has been a slow path for the prep pick, with injuries, a lack of offense, now a 50-game drug suspension. It wasn't obvious at the time, but Aaron Judge was on the board.

2007 | 8th round | 245th
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Matt Moore smiles after closing out a strong sixth inning against the Texas Rangers in their American League Division Series game Friday, September 30, 2011 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Matt Moore smiles after closing out a strong sixth inning against the Texas Rangers in their American League Division Series game Friday, September 30, 2011 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

20. Matt Moore, pitcher

Not quite as much of a reach as Shields, and not nearly as much of a reward, but another example of how being able to develop pitchers can pay off.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays