Over the past few years, the Tampa Bay Rays have emerged as one of the most interesting teams in the MLB. Despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the league, the Rays always seem to find a way to put together a playoff contending team. The Rays have had some of the best players in the league on their roster during their short existence, but who are the greatest players in the history of the franchise? Let’s answer that question and pick out the ten best Rays of all time and see why they make the list.

10. Julio Lugo

Position: Shortstop and Second Base

Years with Rays: 2003-2006

Notable Accolades: N/A

Julio Lugo’s inclusion on this list is certainly surprising, especially considering he spent just three and a half seasons with the team, but it’s worth remembering the Rays have only been around for 25 years. Lugo was never really much more than a league-average shortstop throughout his career, but his time with the Rays was the best stretch of his career. Lugo hit at least .275 in each season he played with Tampa, and also hit the most home runs of his career in 2003 despite not even starting the season with the team. Lugo was also a threat on the bases, racking up a career-high 39 stolen bases in 2005. He wasn’t flashy, but Lugo was a sneaky good player during his time in Tampa.

9. B.J. Upton

Position: Center Field and Third Base

Years with Rays: 2004, 2006-2012

Notable Accolades: N/A

B.J. Upton will likely be remembered more for never truly being able to reach his sky-high potential, but he was still able to put together some strong seasons with the Rays. His 2007 campaign, in which he hit .300 with 24 home runs while stealing 22 bases, offered a glimpse at the player that he could have become, but things ultimately never worked out that way. Upton was still productive, as he stole 30 bases in five straight seasons for Tampa Bay, but he could never put together seasons where he hit for both contact and power at the same time. At the end of the day, though, it’s tough to clarify Upton’s tenure with the Rays as a complete failure, and he sneaks his way on the greatest Rays list.

8. Scott Kazmir

Position: Starting Pitcher

Years with Rays: 2004-2009

Notable Accolades: Two-time AL All-Star

Scott Kazmir was a workhorse early on in his career with the Rays, and seemed to be well on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in the league. He was never outrageously dominant, but Kazmir was part of the young core group of pitchers the Rays had leading the way in the early 2000s. He earned a pair of All-Star selections in 2006 and 2008, but his 2007 campaign was easily the best one of his tenure with Tampa (13-9, 3.48 ERA, 239 K, 1.38 WHIP) and it was shocking that he didn’t really garner much Cy Young consideration that season. The Rays may have overused Kazmir early on in his career, and while he put together a solid career, it felt like he never truly reached his potential. Still, he was very good in his peak with the Rays here.

7. Carlos Pena

Position: First Base

Years with Rays: 2007-2010, 2012

Notable Accolades: 2009 AL All-Star, 2007 Silver Slugger, 2008 Gold Glove winner

It took Carlos Pena awhile to find a consistent home in the MLB, but he found just that when he landed with the Rays in 2007. His peak didn’t last very long, but boy was it good. Pena made the Rays look like baseball wizards when they slotted him in at first base and he immediately hit 46 home runs for them in 2007, and he continued to mash the baseball over the next two seasons. Pena fell off a cliff in 2010 and never truly recovered, but from 2007-2009 he was one of the best first basemen in the game. He finished in the top-ten of the AL MVP race twice, and should have certainly earned more than one All-Star appearance during his career. Pena didn’t stick around long, but he was electric early on with Tampa, and easily earns a spot on the greatest Rays list.

6. James Shields

Position: Starting Pitcher

Years with Rays: 2006-2012

Notable Accolades: 2011 AL All-Star

James Shields was never the best pitcher in the league, and he was often annoyingly inconsistent. But when he was on his game, Shields was absolutely dominant. His 2011 season is one of the most insane in recent memory, as he pitched 11 complete games, which is an outrageous number for the modern day MLB. Shields’ other peripheral numbers were strong, as his 2.82 ERA that season was the best of his career, and he finished in third place in the AL Cy Young race. Shields was an innings-eater for much of his career, and while the results weren’t always there (for reference, he had a 5.18 ERA in 2010) he did more than enough for the Rays throughout his career to earn a spot on the greatest Rays list.

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5. David Price

Position: Starting Pitcher

Years with Rays: 2008-2014

Notable Accolades: 2012 AL Cy Young, Four-time AL All-Star

David Price made quite the first impression when, as a 22-year old rookie, he shut the door on the reigning World Series champions in the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS to send the Rays to the World Series. And in the process, the Rays first great ace was born. The best years of Price’s career came with Tampa Bay, in which he won the 2012 AL CY Young, and very nearly pulled off the same feat in 2010. Price picked up four All-Star selections along the way, and was a constant threat to lead the league in strikeouts and ERA. Price is still going strong with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it’s clear the best years of his career came early on with Tampa Bay.

4. Kevin Kiermaier

Position: Center Field

Years with Rays: 2013-2022

Notable Accolades: Three-time Gold Glove winner

Kevin Kiermaier makes this list primarily due to how long he had played for the Rays, and his defensive contributions. Kiermaier has never been a consistent hitter at the plate, and there were even times when he wasn’t even an everyday player. His peak came through 2015-2017 at the plate, but it’s always been his defensive contributions that stood out. Even in center field, where it’s tougher to win gold gloves due to there being several good fielders at the position, Kiermaier always stood out. Fielding often gets overlooked when judging a player, but there hasn’t been a better defensive outfielder than Kiermaier in the past few years, and while it may be a confusing selection, he gets a spot on the greatest Rays list for his strong all-around play.

3. Ben Zobrist

Position: Second Base, Right Field, and Shortstop

Years with Rays: 2006-2014

Notable Accolades: Two-time AL All-Star

Ben Zobrist is really known for being one of the best utility players of all time, but in the process, he put together one of the best careers in the Rays history. Zobrist pretty much forced himself into the Rays plans, and ended up becoming an invaluable part of their team. He played strong defense all over the field, which certainly enhanced his value, and even better, he could hit at the plate. Zobrist typically hit around .270 with 15-25 home runs, and it helped him earn MVP votes in three seasons, as well as a pair of All-Star selections. Zobrist wasn’t the most typical player you’d ever stumble upon, but he was a huge piece of the Rays success during his time with the team, and he finds his way into the top three greatest Rays players.

2. Carl Crawford

Position: Left Field

Years with Rays: 2002-2010

Notable Accolades: Four-time AL All-Star, 2010 Silver Slugger, 2010 Gold Glove

Carl Crawford will likely go down as one of the biggest free agent busts after signing with the Boston Red Sox in free agency after his fantastic 2010 season, but during his prime with the Rays, Crawford was one of the most electric players in the game. The speedster would hit around .300 on a yearly basis, and when he found his way on base, it was off to the races. Crawford stole at least 50 bases in five seasons with the Rays, including 60 in 2009. Crawford was no slouch with the bat either, and led the AL in triples in four seasons. Crawford obviously flamed out in a big way after leaving the Rays, but during his time with the team, he was one of the best players in the MLB.

1. Evan Longoria

Position: Third Base

Years with Rays: 2008-2017

Notable Accolades: 2008 AL Rookie of the Year, Three-time AL All-Star, Three-time Gold Glove winner, 2009 Silver Slugger

When it comes to playing at a high level over an extended period of time for the Rays, no one comes particularly close to matching Evan Longoria. Longoria kicked his career off with a bang, winning Rookie of the Year in 2008 while reeling off three-straight All-Star selections. Longoria certainly didn’t stop playing well just because he wasn’t getting selected to the All-Star game, and he ended up hitting at least 20 home runs in all but one season of his career in Tampa, which came in 2012 when he played just 74 games. Longoria also held up well in the field, and was one of the best defensive third basemen throughout his time with the Rays. Tampa hasn’t had a lot of success keeping their star players around for extended periods of time as we have seen throughout this list, but Longoria is the one they managed to hold onto, and as a result, he is easily the greatest player in the Rays short history.