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Rays' Top 5 left-handed starters: Toribio's take

@juanctoribio
June 1, 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 five left-handed pitchers in Rays history. Next week: Relief pitchers.

Tampa Bay's all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RH SP

1) David Price, 2008-14
Key fact: Won the American League Cy Young Award in '12

No. 1 overall picks in the MLB Draft don’t always pan out, but Price certainly lived up to the hype, becoming the best left-handed starting pitcher in franchise history -- and there really isn’t much to debate.

Just a year removed from Vanderbilt, Price helped the Rays reach the World Series in 2008, albeit as a reliever. He joined the starting rotation after that season and never looked back.

In 2012, Price became the first pitcher in franchise history to win the Cy Young Award, while simultaneously becoming the first Rays pitcher to win 20 games in a single season.

Price's 3.18 ERA is the lowest among pitchers with at least 300 innings as a member of the Rays. He also ranks second in franchise history with 82 wins, third in strikeouts (1,065) and owns the best winning percentage (.636) among pitchers with at least 50 decisions.

2) Scott Kazmir, 2004-09
Key fact: 55 wins ranks third in franchise history

While Kazmir was never really considered a true ace of a pitching staff, the left-hander is one of the best pitchers in franchise history due to his consistency.

Kazmir made two All-Star appearances with the Rays, but one of his best seasons came in '07, a year in which he was left off the roster for the Midsummer Classic.

Throughout his Rays career, Kazmir never won more than 13 games, but he finished with at least 10 victories in all of his four full seasons with Tampa Bay. His highest season ERA was 3.77, and that came during his rookie year.

Kazmir represented consistency, contributing to his placement as fourth in franchise history in games started (144), innings pitched (834) and strikeouts (874), as well as eighth in winning percentage (.556)

3) Blake Snell, 2016-present
Key fact: Won the AL Cy Young Award in ‘18

When it’s all said and done, there’s a chance Snell might overtake Price atop these rankings. Like all pitchers, it will come down to consistency and health. But assuming that’s the case, Snell has the talent to be the best left-hander in club history.

In his short career, Snell has already accomplished a lot. He became the second pitcher in franchise history to win the Cy Young Award with a superb 2018 season. He set the single-season wins record during that year, raising the bar to 21. He also had the lowest qualified ERA (1.89) in club history.

Now, it depends on what Snell does during the remainder of his Rays career. He signed a five-year, $50 million deal in March 2019, so he’ll be locked up for the next couple of years. He only needs 17 wins to match Kazmir and 44 to catch up to Price.

4) Matt Moore, 2011-16
Key fact: All-Star in '13

Moore’s 2013 season is one of the best campaigns in Rays history. The left-hander made his lone All-Star appearance, going 17-4 and posting a career-high 3.29 ERA in 27 starts.

But the left-hander was never able to stay healthy and find consistency. He made just 35 starts over his last three seasons with Tampa Bay before being traded to the Giants in August 2016.

5) Ryan Yarbrough, 2018-present
Key fact: Won 16 games as a rookie in ‘18

Some might make an argument that Yarbrough shouldn’t be on the list because he’s not a full-time starter and has benefited from the opener strategy. The counterpoint would be that Yarbrough has thrived despite being asked to come out of the bullpen, which is something he didn’t do much of during his Minor League career.

The bottom line is that Yarbrough has won 27 games in his first two big league seasons. Some of those have been due to his use as the opener, and pitcher wins certainly don’t tell the whole story, but the Rays would not have won 90-plus games in each of the last two seasons without the lefty's contributions.

In fact, Yarbrough, along with Charlie Morton, was relied upon heavily to keep the Rays in contention last season after Tyler Glasnow, Yonny Chirinos and Snell all went down with injuries.

Honorable mentions
Wilson Alvarez was in the inaugural Rays rotation and made a pretty decent case to finish in the top five on this list. Tony Saunders and Mark Hendrickson also get an honorable mention.

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