Putting together the Rays All-Time 25th Anniversary squad

Evan Longoria, 3, with Carl Crawford, 13, following the 2008 ALDS.
Evan Longoria, 3, with Carl Crawford, 13, following the 2008 ALDS. / Jamie Squire/GettyImages
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First Base: No. 23, Carlos Pena

Carlos Pena
Carlos Pena. / John Williamson/GettyImages

Carlos Pena was a big part of the aforementioned Moneyball strategy innovated by Billie Beane that the Rays historically implement, and while he's a baseball purist's nightmare, he's the quintessential analytical darling. Of any legendary Ray from the past, he's the most like the modern Rays and embodies the typical MLB player's attitude from 2023. A three-true-outcome savant, Pena was a low-batting average, high on-base plus slug batter. From 2007-2010, Pena had a 26.5% K rate. He also posted a 15.7% walk rate to go with his 6.1% home run rate. Approximately half the time, a Pena at-bat ended in one of the three-true-outcome probabilities.

There's a strong argument to be made that the 2007 season from Pena was the strongest single-season campaign in Rays history. His .411 on-base clip and .627 SLG are the highest in single-season history. In fact, the second closest in SLG in a stand-alone campaign is Austin Meadows, who slugged a mere .558 in his 2019 All-Star season. Beyond that, Pena is the only Ray to reach the 40 home run benchmark in the uniform, hitting 46 in 2007, leading to a 7.2 bWAR.

Yet, it's his 2008 season he likely remembers fondest, as a cornerstone of a team that embarked on a trip to the World Series, and saw Pena win his Gold Glove, which was the determining factor in whether he or McGriff started in the field on this particular fantasy squad. Pena was elected to his only All-Star team in 2009, a year where he led the Junior Circuit in home runs.

It's well-documented how good Tampa is at getting the most out of their players, but perhaps there's no player whose potential they unlocked (where others could not) more than Carlos Pena. A run-producer that drove in 100 runs in three consecutive seasons and would have the most raw power of any player in this lineup, he's the easy choice to bat cleanup for this team.