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Rays' Top 5 right fielders: Toribio's take

@juanctoribio
May 11, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Juan Toribio’s ranking of the Top 5 right fielders in Rays history. Next week: Designated hitter.

Tampa Bay's All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF

1) Steven Souza Jr., 2015-17
Key fact: Hit 30 homers in 2017, second most in a single season by a right fielder in team history

Souza’s path to the Majors was a long one, including some thoughts about playing college football, but once he decided to stick with baseball, it all paid off -- especially as a member of the Rays.

Souza was a solid player in his first two seasons, hitting 33 home runs from 2013-15 and finishing with a .715 OPS. But in his third and ultimately final season with Tampa Bay, Souza really found his footing and had a breakout season, blasting 30 home runs and finishing with an .810 OPS in ‘17.

Those 30 home runs were a single-season team record by a primary right fielder. Unfortunately for Souza, he was unable to try and replicate that production as the team dealt him to Arizona during the following Spring Training.

2) Matt Joyce, 2009-14
Key fact: American League All-Star in 2011

Even though we added Joyce to the left fielders list, his splits between left and right field are too close to pick from and his best overall season with the club came as a right fielder, so that was the decider.

Joyce had five solid seasons with the Rays, but none better than his 2011 campaign -- in which he played 126 games in right field -- that earned him his only career All-Star appearance. That year, Joyce launched 17 home runs and posted an .825 OPS with a 131 OPS+ that is the second highest in a single season by a right fielder in franchise history.

3) Austin Meadows, 2018-present
Key fact: Hit 33 homers in 2019, the most in a single season by a right fielder in team history

Is it too early to have Meadows as a top three right fielder in team history? Maybe. But his 2019 season is perhaps the best by any Rays right fielder. Meadows became a household name, launching 33 home runs and earning his first All-Star bid, while also receiving some AL Most Valuable Player Award votes at the end of the season.

If Meadows continues his trajectory -- which many believe will happen -- it’s only a matter of time before he’s atop this list.

4) Ben Grieve, 2001-03
Key fact: Has a 3.2 bWAR as a member of the Rays

Grieve never tapped into the power numbers he displayed with the A’s, but the club did see glimpses of it during the 2002 season. Grieve, who edged Rays pitcher Rolando Arrojo for the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1998, hit 19 home runs with the Rays in ‘02. Grieve, however, wasn’t able to build off that, playing in just 55 games in ‘03, which turned out to be his last season with the organization.

5) Wil Myers, 2013-14
Key fact: Won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013

Ah, what could’ve been. After the 2013 season, there was almost no doubt that the Rays had finally found a strong right fielder and one that would solidify the position for many years to come.

Myers won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013, posting a 131 OPS+. His 2013 season is one of the best by a Rays right fielder, which is why he comes in at No. 5 on this list. But in ‘14, it was a different story. Myers’ batting average dropped from .293 to .222, and his power was significantly down, as his OPS fell from .831 to .614. That decline was enough for the Rays to trade Myers to the Padres in exchange for Jake Bauers and Souza.

Honorable mentions
Jonny Gomes was a deserving candidate, but he will qualify more as a designated hitter. ... Gabe Kapler and Dave Martinez represent the future managers group, but both fell short of making this list. ... Gabe Gross also had a case to make the list, but Myers winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award gave him the nod instead.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.