When you consider all the obstacles in the Rays’ way, their run of success the last six years is nothing short of astounding. With a payroll consistently among the lowest in baseball and a fan base unable to come to games because of Tropicana Field’s horrific location, conventional thought would have been that the Rays would stay among baseball’s worst teams and any success they were going to have would be fleeting, the result of just a year or two in which they got lucky. Instead, fortune has played only a minute role in the Rays’ success. A series of excellent drafts, perfectly-timed extensions, and low-cost signings have crafted the Rays into one of the best teams in baseball year after year. What would happen if you added some luck into the equation? Well, we’re about to find out.
The competitive balance draft features the teams in the ten smallest markets in baseball and the teams with the ten smallest revenues (there are overlaps, so there are 14 teams in total) and has a lottery weighted based on team record to award additional selections in the draft. The first six teams get selections after the first round of the draft while the next six get to pick after the second round. Two teams are left out. In the first competitive balance draft, the Rays were one of those two teams that did not receive an extra pick. But this year, they have received the 10th overall selection, essentially an extra second round pick, and you never know how much of a difference that will make–Carl Crawford was once a second round pick by the Rays. The Rays got a little lucky and find themselves with an extra selection in next year’s draft. After everything they have persevered through, it was long overdue and gives the rest of baseball reason to be just a bit more scared about what the Rays will do in coming seasons.