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The Rays Hope They've Recaptured Their MLB Draft Magic

From 1999 to 2008, few teams drafted as well as the Rays. When it came to athletic outfielders and young pitchers, the Rays had success year after year, which laid the foundation for the team’s success that saw them win the 2008 American League pennant and make three other playoff appearances from 2009 to 2013. The following is a list of Rays’ draftees who produced five or more wins above replacement from the 1999 to 2008 drafts.

YearPlayer, Pos (Round)WAR
1999Josh Hamilton, OF (1)---
1999Carl Crawford, OF, (2)39.2
2000Rocco Baldelli, OF (1)10.2
2000James Shields, RHP (16)30.6
2002B.J. Upton, SS (1)16.5
2004Wade Davis, RHP (3)13
2004Jake McGee, LHP (5)6.6
2005Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (4)12.2
2006Evan Longoria, 3B (1)51.9
2006Alex Cobb, RHP (4)11.9
2007David Price, LHP (1)37.9
2007Stephen Vogt, C (12)6.8
2008Tim Beckham, SS (1)5.2

Over the past decade, despite having bounties of first-round picks, the Rays have struggled to draft and develop big league stars. Kevin Kiermaier was a great find in the 31st round and Blake Snell is coming off of a Cy Young season, but that’s been the extent of what the Rays received from having six of the top 100 picks in 2010 and 12 of the top 100 in 2011. Here is a look at draftees who have produced at least five WAR from the 2009 to 2014 drafts.

Note: While the Rays are unlikely to get any production from anyone else in the 2009 to 2013 drafts, Brent Honeywell could make the 2014 draft haul look much better in a few years.

YearPlayer, Pos (Round)WAR
2010Kevin Kiermaier, OF (31)24
2011Blake Snell, LHP (1s)9.2

We won’t know how much the Rays have gotten from their 2015 to 2018 drafts for several years, but the early returns on the club’s switch to a more data-driven draft approach are promising. The 2015 and 2016 classes look to have modest returns, led by second baseman Brandon Lowe and first baseman Nate Lowe, a pair of Top 100 Prospects. But it’s the 2017 draft, which includes two-way standout Brendan McKay, and the 2018 draft, which includes lefthander Matthew Liberatore, that show the most promise for Tampa Bay.


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