Tampa Bay Rays all-time team: Price, Snell in rotation; Crawford, Longoria in order of AL's youngest club
We're picking a 'Baseball Stars' lineup for each team during April
In an effort to avoid going stir crazy with MLB and every other major sports league shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, I've decided to take a look at the best of the best for each baseball franchise. We're going to have a 30-day series creating an all-time team for each MLB club. We'll break down one team per day throughout April, continuing today with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are tied with the D-Backs for the youngest MLB franchise.
As a (hopefully?) fun twist, I'm making a Baseball Stars team for each. That's right, the old-school Nintendo video game "Baseball Stars," which I still consider to be the best baseball video game ever. It allowed you to create teams and I used to make all-time lineups for prominent MLB franchises. There are the eight position players with four starting pitchers, one reliever and five bench position players on each Baseball Stars squad.
Given the Rays' age, don't expect to see anything rivaling the franchises that started in the 1800s. To the lineup.
Not a ton to choose from here. Dioner Navarro was a consideration. The team leader in WAR at the position is Toby Hall, but he was with the club seven years and averaged less than 1 WAR per season. I'll go with John Jaso. In his four seasons with the Rays, he had a .350 on-base percentage and walked nearly as much as he struck out. I'll take it.
We've seen good seasons from Casey Kotchman, Travis Lee and Logan Morrison, but this boiled down to two players. Fred McGriff and Carlos Pena. With the Rays, McGriff had 99 homers, 359 RBI and a 122 OPS+. Pena had 163 homers, 468 RBI and a 126 OPS+. Pena is fifth in WAR among Rays position players all-time, too. He's the pick.
Pretty easy pick here. It's Ben Zobrist by a mile.
Jason Bartlett might've had the best season by a Rays' shortstop in 2009, but the next small handful of shortstop seasons belong to Julio Lugo. In parts of four seasons with the Rays, he hit .287/.350/.421 (105 OPS+) with 13.5 WAR.
It will be a very long time before anyone gets close to Evan Longoria here.
The same goes for Carl Crawford in left. He's second in Rays history in position player WAR to Longoria (Zobrist is only 0.3 behind Crawford; call them the Rays' Big Three).
We have to apologize to B.J. Upton again. Randy Winn, too. Kevin Kiermaier sits behind the Big Three on the WAR leaderboard and he's going to be around for several more seasons.
We've got single seasons out here from the likes of Steven Souza, Austin Meadows, Jonny Gomes, Wil Myers and Matt Joyce. As such, I'm just gonna kick Melvin Upton over here. He played mostly second base and center field for the Rays, but I've been moving guys around in this exercise. Plus, it's for fun.
Lots of names here. Gomes, Corey Dickerson, Jose Canseco, Greg Vaughn, C.J. Cron. I'm a big Fred McGriff fan, though, so he's the (biased) choice.
As a member of the Rays, David Price won the Cy Young, made four All-Star teams and pitched in four different postseasons. He's the franchise leader in WAR among pitchers, ERA and WHIP. He's a cinch atop the rotation. The number two is also easy, in James Shields. He's second in WAR while topping the list in innings, strikeouts, complete games, shutouts and wins. The next two spots are up in the air. I could go with Scott Kazmir, Chris Archer or Alex Cobb. I'm gonna go with Blake Snell as the three, though. He's the upside play and is signed through 2023. From the aforementioned trio, I'll take Scott Kazmir.
This is incredibly difficult because the Rays, by design, cycle through relievers on a regular basis. Roberto Hernandez is the career saves leader, but Jake McGee has him pretty much everywhere else. I'll take McGee.
Baseball Stars uses six characters for each name. What follows is the Baseball Stars lineup.
- Carl, LF
- Zo, 2B
- Evan, 3B
- Pena, 1B
- Fred, DH
- B.J., RF
- Lugo, SS
- Jaso, C
- Kevin, CF
SP: Price, James, Snell, Kazmir
Bench: I've got four spots left. I've generally been picking backup catchers, but it's a video game. Who cares. I'll just go with DesJen (Desmond Jennings), Rocco (Baldelli), Jason (Bartlett) and Randy (Winn).
As always, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your own team (@MattSnyderCBS).
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