With the draft around the corner, we take a look at the three best players to be drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays have an interesting list of first-round draft picks in their history. Here are a few fun facts before we get started with the top three players.
This list goes from the first pick of Paul Wilder in 1996 to Josh Lowe in 2016.
- The Rays have selected 22 players in the first round since their inception to 2016. Of the 22 players, only five have surpassed a 10 career rWAR.
- The average rWAR is 7.25 per player.
- The top three players account for 77.5% of the total rWAR.
- The top five players account for 94.4% of the total rWAR.
- Of the 17 remaining players, only six have a career rWAR over zero.
- Delmon Young finished with a career rWAR of 3.2 but the Rays have turned his trade into a total WAR of 46.2 and counting.
Okay, let’s get into the top five players ever drafted by the Rays in the first round.
Just a head’s up, these rankings are based on career production, not what they produced as a Ray or for the Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays 1st Round Draft Pick – Rocco Baldelli
Rocco Baldelli was once one of the top prospects in all of baseball. A scout once compared him to Joe Dimaggio. Baldelli burst onto the scene in 2003 by finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting and rocketing 32 doubles, eight triples, and 11 homers.
After the 2004 season, Rocco’s momentum came to a screeching halt, tearing his ACL in a pickup basketball game. He would return in 2006 to post an OPS of .871 while hitting .309 with 16 homers in just 92 games. That would be the most games he would play in a single season for the rest of his career.
Injuries kept him out of 261 games between 2007 and 2008. Even with the injuries, the Rays decided Rocco’s talent needed to be on the postseason roster in 2008. He rewarded their faith by hitting .333 in the ALCS with four RBI. He also hit a couple of home runs, including one in Game 5 of the World Series.
That offseason he would be diagnosed with a condition called mitochondrial channelopathy. He just couldn’t overcome the disease and stay healthy. The Rays kept him on board as a special assistant with the caveat that if his health permitted, he could play again.
He returned for ten more games. Fittingly, in the first at-bat of his return, he hit his final major-league home run. Baldelli would announce his retirement at the age of 29. He became the youngest manager to win the Manager of the Year Award in Major League Baseball history last season for the Minnesota Twins.