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20 years of the Rays: The 20 best players

20/20 Vision: The 20 best players in Rays history.
Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria, center, is congratulated by teammates Willy Aybar, left, and B.J. Upton after Longoria hit a home run off Oakland Athletics' Brett Anderson during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria, center, is congratulated by teammates Willy Aybar, left, and B.J. Upton after Longoria hit a home run off Oakland Athletics' Brett Anderson during the second inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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 best players based on the baseballreference.com statistic Wins Above Replacement, an effort to summarize a player's total contributions to their team in one statistic.

To qualify, players must have a minimum 25 innings or 75 at-bats:

1. Evan Longoria, 3b

WAR: 49.9

YEARS: 2008-17

Also likely No. 1 for 50th anniversary.

Ben Zobrist.JAMES BORCHUCK | TimesBen Zobrist celebrates in the dugout after his two run homer in the seventh gave the Rays a 6-3 lead over the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field Monday, July 8, 2013.
Ben Zobrist.JAMES BORCHUCK | TimesBen Zobrist celebrates in the dugout after his two run homer in the seventh gave the Rays a 6-3 lead over the Minnesota Twins at Tropicana Field Monday, July 8, 2013.

2. Ben Zobrist, inf/of

WAR: 35.8

YEARS: 2006-14

Gets so much love from WAR crowd.

3. Carl Crawford, of

WAR: 35.6

YEARS: 2002-10

Rivals Longoria as most decorated Ray.

Kevin Kiermaier.CHRIS URSO | Times
Kevin Kiermaier.CHRIS URSO | Times

4. Kevin Kiermaier, of

WAR: 21.5

YEARS: 2013-17

5. David Price, p

WAR: 21.3

YEARS: 2008-14

6. James Shields, p

WAR: 19.7

YEARS: 2006-12

Deserves credit for building culture.

Carlos Pena. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Carlos Pena. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

7. Carlos Pena, 1b

WAR: 18.1

YEARS: 2007-12

8. Scott Kazmir p

WAR: 16.5

YEARS: 2004-09

ORG XMIT: SPD106 Tampa Bay Rays’ Reid Brignac (15) congratulates B.J. Upton after Upton’s solo home run off Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday night, Aug. 28, 2010, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
ORG XMIT: SPD106 Tampa Bay Rays’ Reid Brignac (15) congratulates B.J. Upton after Upton’s solo home run off Boston Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz during the eighth inning of a baseball game Saturday night, Aug. 28, 2010, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

9. Melvin Upton of

WAR: 15.5

YEARS: 2004-12

10. Julio Lugo, inf

WAR: 13.5

YEARS: 2003-06

Surprised to see him this high on list.

Desmond Jennings (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Desmond Jennings (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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. Desmond Jennings, of

WAR: 13.3

YEARS: 2010-16

12. Chris Archer, p

WAR: 11.9

YEARS: 2012-17

13. Aubrey Huff, 1b/of/DH

WAR: 11.7

YEARS: 2000-06

Known for talking, did well hitting, too.

Alex Cobb. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
Alex Cobb. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

14. Alex Cobb, p

WAR: 10.8

YEARS: 2011-17

Missed injury time cost him here, too.

15. Jason Bartlett, inf

WAR: 10.4

YEARS: 2008-10

Matt Joyce.(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Matt Joyce.(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

16. Matt Joyce, of/dh

WAR: 9.8

YEARS: 2009-14

17. Rocco Baldelli, of

WAR: 9.5

YEARS: 2003-10

How good could he have been if healthy?

Logan Forsythe (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Logan Forsythe (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

18. Logan Forsythe, inf

WAR: 9.4

YEARS: 2014-16

19. Fred McGriff, 1b/dh

WAR: 8.9

YEARS: 1998-2004

20. Matt Garza, p

WAR: 8.5

YEARS: 2008-10

Just missed: Sean Rodriguez, inf/of, WAR: 7.6, YEARS: 2010-14;
Randy Winn, of, WAR: 7.3, YEARS: 1998-2002;

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