What could be more fun that comprising a list of the 10 best Rays players of all time? Making a list of the 10 worst is much more fun. The Devil Rays/Rays team history is full of recent success, however, you can’t pick David Price or Evan Longoria first overall without stinking it up on the field for a few seasons. This list chronicles the 10 players who helped get the Rays those early first round picks. Unlike the 10 best list this countdown has no caveats, if a player was bad on the field and hated off it then they are gladly welcomed into the top 10 worst Rays in franchise history.
10. Dewon Brazelton (2002-05)
The tall and lanky pitcher from Tennessee was chosen third overall in the 2001 amateur draft and was full of hype and expectations. His four years in Tampa Bay resulted in a record of 8-25 with a space needle-esque ERA of 6.38. Brazelton was a complete bust and was out of baseball by 2006, and is a perfect example of the ineptitude of the Devil Rays’ front office.
9. Wilson Alvarez (1998-99, 2002)
Alvarez has the distinction of throwing the first pitch in team history and that may have been his lone highlight while in Tampa Bay. Signed to a five-year deal for $39.5 million, Alvarez went 6-14 in the inaugural year and played only another year and a half with Tampa Bay, another example of early Devil Rays spending that absolutely backfired. Players like Alvarez prove why spending big money on free agents isn’t worth the risk.
8. Elijah Dukes (2007)
A football and baseball standout at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, (the same school Doc Gooden attended) Dukes was chosen in the third round by the Devil Rays and had a tough time staying out of trouble. Supremely gifted physically, Dukes played only one year with the Rays and hit .190 before being traded to the Washington Nationals, where he came close to flourishing before personal problems derailed his MLB career.
7. Tanyon Sturtze (2000-02)
Sturtze was not a Devil Rays draftee but joined the team in 2000 and although his contract wasn’t overly daunting for the Devil Rays, his pitching was scary. In 2001, Sturtze went 11-12, not bad considering the team he was with; the next season though was one of the worst pitching seasons in recent memory. Sturtze finished 2002 with a record of 4-18. Sturtze led the league in losses, hits given up, earned runs surrendered, and walks.
6. Josh Hamilton
Every time Josh Hamilton smacks a gargantuan home run or laces a double into a gap, Rays’ fans cringe and ponder what could have been. Hamilton’s drug issues postponed his major league career and they began in Bradenton, Florida while a member of the Rays’ minor league system. He was also persuaded to get his tattoos by minor league teammate Carl Crawford. Now one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball Hamilton never played a day in a Devil Rays jersey despite being chosen first overall by Tampa Bay in 1999. (On a personal note, when Hamilton made his first appearance in Tampa Bay, as a member of the Texas Rangers, I stood and clapped because despite hurting the team, in the long run I must respect the fortitude and strength it takes to recover from drug addiction.)
5. Kevin Stocker (1998-2000)
An original Devil Ray, the light-hitting second baseman played only two-and-a-half seasons in Tampa Bay but he makes this list because of who he was traded for. The Devil Rays acquired Stocker in exchange for a young player they had obtained in the expansion draft, Bobby Abreu. Abreu played nine seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and was an All-Star twice. Stocker was out of baseball within two years of being acquired by the Devil Rays.
4. Ben Grieve (2001-03)
With the Oakland Athletics, Grieve was an All-Star and won the Rookie of the Year award. In 2000, he hit .279 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs. Acquired in a three-team trade Grieve was expected to be a power-hitter that the lineup needed and instead hit only 34 home runs in three seasons with the Devil Rays.
3. Pat Burrell (2009-10)
As a member of the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, ‘Pat the Bat’ helped beat the Rays. The Rays’ front office must have been impressed because they gave him $16 million dollars over two years that offseason. A rare black-eye for the Rays’ management, Burrell was just plain unproductive and in 2009, hit only 14 home runs after hitting 30 in each of the previous three seasons. To make it worse, Burrell was traded to the San Francisco Giants and promptly won a World Series while being a big contributor to their success. There were always rumblings that Burrell and manager Joe Maddon never got along.
2. Juan Guzman (2000)
If anyone remembers Guzman in a Devil Rays jersey, he or she is truly a fan. At the age of 33, Guzman was given $12 million over two seasons and pitched only an inning and two-thirds before blowing out his arm and never pitched in the big leagues again. After his contract was a complete waste, along with the next player on the list, the Rays have been hesitant to spend big-money on free-agents ever since.
1. Vinny Castilla (2000-01)
His nickname in Tampa Bay was ‘Vinny Cash-Stealer’, that’s all you need to know.
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