Rays' Top 5 righty starters: Toribio's take

May 25th, 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 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 right-handed pitchers in Rays history. Next week: Left-handed starters.

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

1. (2006-12)
Key fact: Franchise leader in wins (87)

Shields is the most accomplished and durable pitcher on the list. The right-hander won 87 games, started 30 or more in six consecutive seasons and received Cy Young Award votes once in his seven-year stint with the Rays.

Of all these stats, however, the most impressive might be the fact that Shields recorded 19 complete games with Tampa Bay. In a time when bullpens reign supreme over length from starting pitchers, it seems fair to assume that Shields’ franchise record will hold up for a couple more seasons.

Aside from leading the franchise in wins and complete games, Shields is also atop the leaderboard in innings pitched (1,454 2/3), strikeouts (1,250), shutouts (8) and games started (217).

2. (2012-18)
Key fact: 3.69 ERA ranks fourth in team history

Archer wasted no time establishing himself in the Rays’ rotation, finishing his rookie season with a 3.22 ERA, good for third in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Archer remained consistent over the next couple of seasons, posting a 3.33 ERA or lower in his first three big league seasons. In 2015, Archer anchored the Tampa Bay rotation, finishing fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting and representing the club in the All-Star Game. 

While an argument can be made that Archer never became the bona fide ace the club expected him to be, it’s undeniable that he was a very good pitcher and served as the face of the franchise during some down seasons. Archer made 177 starts with the Rays, second behind only Shields, and his 54 wins rank fourth in franchise history.

3. (2008-10)
Key fact: Pitched the franchise’s only no-hitter on July 26, 2010

It was a tough call between Garza and Alex Cobb, but the fact that Garza played a pivotal part during the 2008 AL pennant-winning season earned him the third spot on this list.

Garza’s most historic moment with the Rays came when he twirled a no-hitter against the Tigers in 2010, but the right-hander gave the organization plenty of reasons to celebrate in his three seasons with the club.

4. (2011-17)
Key fact: 3.50 ERA ranks third in franchise history

Much like Archer, Cobb gave the Rays much-needed stability in their rotation during a time when the organization wasn’t in playoff contention. In 2013, however, Cobb rose to the occasion, going 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA as the Rays reached the postseason.

From 2011-14, Cobb finished with a sub-3.00 ERA twice and won 10 or more games in all three years. Though he doesn’t lead the Rays in any pitching categories, he is in the top 10 in ERA, wins (fifth), starts (sixth), winning percentage (fourth), innings pitched (fifth) and strikeouts (seventh).

5. (2010-14)
Key fact: Won AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2011

This spot was a battle between Hellickson and Jake Odorizzi, but the fact that Hellickson won the ROY Award in 2011, a year when the Rays made the playoffs, gave him the nod.

There were some mixed results for Hellickson during his time with Tampa Bay. He was a key member of the rotation from 2011-12, posting a combined 126 ERA+, but his last two seasons weren’t so great, as he finished with a significantly below-average ERA+ of just 76.

Despite his struggles, Hellickson’s 3.78 ERA with the Rays ranks fifth all time. The 40 wins he compiled are tied for sixth in team history and his 463 strikeouts are 10th.

Honorable mention
obviously received a lot of consideration for the final spot on the list, but he’s more than deserving of an honorable mention. Same goes for , though he’s only been with the franchise for one season. Rolando Arrojo became the organization’s first All-Star in 1998 and posted a 6.6 bWAR as a member of the Rays. , and all get an honorable mention.