With the 2018 MLB Draft kicking off tonight, let’s take another look at some of the selections that didn’t pan out over the years for the Tampa Bay Rays.
As any team would expect, some of the most valuable pieces of Rays’ history came from the first round of Major League Baseball drafts. Evan Longoria and David Price undoubtedly top the list. There will always be the what could have been with Josh Hamilton. Ultimately, he was one of baseball’s best at the time. But, that came after he was let go by the Rays. BJ Upton, Rocco Baldelli, Jeff Niemann, Delmon Young. All had decent to good careers in Tampa Bay.
Then, there’s the notorious picks that didn’t go over so well. For me, the first three drafts set the tone for the first ten years of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Obviously, no conversation about draft picks can begin without mentioning the first number one pick that the Devil Rays made, which was for high school outfielder Paul Wilder. Not a lot should be said about Wilder. He didn’t rise above the high-A ranks with Tampa Bay. He completed his career with a .204 batting average while striking out more than one out of every three at bats.
Jason Standridge, sitting out the 1998 draft and missing on Josh Hamilton continued the frustration.
Next was pitcher Jason Standridge. He went on to make 21 appearances with the Devil Rays, including nine starts while ending with a 0-5 record and 6.38 ERA with the team. His MLB career ended in 2007, but he had a successful career in Japan, earning a 72 and 65 record and a 3.31 ERA.
Then, in year three of drafts, the Devil Rays had to sit on the sidelines in the first round. This was lost as compensation for signing closer Roberto Hernandez for the inaugural season of baseball in Tampa Bay. Now, by no means am I selling the Hernandez signing short. He provided a veteran presence and went on to save 101 games in three seasons for the Devil Rays. But, not having a first round pick of their own in this draft hurt the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Franchise.
As a side note, after saying Tampa Bay didn’t have a pick in the first round of this draft, it’s fun to look at it and say that four of the top ten picks in that draft spent time in with the franchise. Pat Burrell, Felipe Lopez, Sean Burroughs and, most notably, Carlos Pena all had time here in following years.
Beyond the first three years, there have been many forgettable names passing through the first round. Wade Townsend, LeVon Washington and Josh Sale are three more names forgotten as draft busts in team history.