Putting together the Rays All-Time 25th Anniversary squad
Second Base: No. 18, Ben Zobrist
If you were tasked with finding the stereotypical Tampa Bay Rays player, it'd be Ben Zobrist. He'll forever be known for a knack for peskiness at the plate, all-around athleticism across the diamond, and the willingness to do just about anything unorthodox for the team. As you most likely interpret from the photo used, Zobrist was at one point at outfielder for the organization. Here's the thing: he was. But he was also a more-than-solid infielder. During his career, Zobrist played at least one inning at every position, including pitcher, with the exception of catcher. The position he played most during his MLB career is second base, at 911 games, so that's the position we'll use here.
Despite being a very prominent part of the Rays lineup, including an 8-win 2009 season where the All-Star slashed a gaudy .297/.405/.543, that's his legacy. Zobrist was the first true super-utility player that didn't come off the bench, a role every team in the league looks to fill every single year. Beyond that, every team needs a winning player, which Ben Zobrist was.
Zobrist stacks up excellently among players to put on the Rays uniform. He's top three in WAR (35.3) for position players, hits (1,016), doubles (229) and RBI (510). He's top five in OBP (.354, tied with Akinori Iwamura), home runs (114), stolen bases (102) and WPA (7.3). There's a strong argument to be made that Zobrist never truly received the love he earned in the Tampa area while playing with talents the caliber of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford and David Price, but he's firmly entrenched in team lore for all of the right reasons.