ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have experienced multiple winning seasons over the last decade, which means that Tropicana Field has served as the home to a lot of talented players over that span.
Tampa Bay is enjoying success with a young core of players, one that helped the club return to the playoffs in 2019. But with the decade coming to an end, let’s take a look -- and rank -- the 10 best Rays players of the 2010s.
It’s important to note that the deciding factor on the rankings ultimately came down to multiple seasons of success, as opposed to one or two good years, unless they were historic performances.
1. Evan Longoria
As tough as it was to narrow this list down to just 10 players, this is probably the easiest person to rank out of the 30 teams in the Majors. Longoria is the best player to wear a Rays uniform, and it’s not particularly close. Surprisingly, the California native made the All-Star team just once over the last decade, but he finished in the top 10 in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting three times. Longo holds just about every Rays record you can think of, and his 49.8 career WAR (per Baseball Reference) is the most of any Tampa Bay player. As soon as he calls it quits, Longoria's No. 3 will be the first jersey retired by the organization.
2. David Price
There aren’t many pitchers who can match Price’s success from the first half of the decade. The lefty won 72 games with the club within that time frame, made four All-Star teams and became the first AL Cy Young Award winner in franchise history after winning 20 games in 2012. In '13, Price was also responsible for the complete-game win over the Rangers in Game 163 to get the Rays back in the postseason. His No. 14 jersey is another one that should hang in the rafters one day.
3. Ben Zobrist
Every team covets a versatile player who can play the infield and outfield, and that’s because of what Zobrist was able to accomplish with the Rays. While Longoria and Price are the more accomplished players, Zobrist’s impact due to his versatility was just as significant. Zobrist helped the Rays make the World Series in 2008 and had his breakout season in ‘09, but he continued his success into this decade, which is why he’s ranked so highly on this list. Zobrist made the All-Star team in ‘13 and received AL MVP Award votes in ‘11 and ‘12.
4. Kevin Kiermaier
While Kiermaier’s bat hasn’t come around as much as he and the Rays hoped, the center fielder more than makes up for it with his stellar glove. Kiermaier will likely go down as the best defensive outfielder in franchise history, and he might already have that crown. The 29-year-old has won three AL Gold Glove Awards, one AL Platinum Glove Award -- and he could possibly have had more if he stayed healthy over the last four seasons. There’s still time for Kiermaier’s bat to come around, but even if it doesn’t, he’ll finish out his career being an all-time great. In fact, Kiermaier’s career 26.2 bWAR is already fourth best in team history.
5. Chris Archer
Archer’s time with the Rays is probably one of the most complex in team history. The right-hander finished third in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2013 after posting a 3.22 ERA. He also made two AL All-Star teams while he was with Tampa Bay and finished fifth in AL Cy Young Award voting in ‘15, but there is still a sense that Archer, somehow, could’ve been even better. The Rays were rebuilding through most of the righty's time with the club, which affected his win-loss numbers -- still something fans look at. But while you can make an argument that Archer wouldn’t have been an ace on a very good team, he was still able to provide plenty of quality starts and served as a national image for Tampa Bay's pitching staff. The former fifth-round Draft pick's career 12.4 bWAR ranks 12th in team history.
6. Alex Cobb
Much like Archer, Cobb was able to pitch well during a time where the Rays were looking to build a quality team in the future. Cobb was a big contributor during the 2013 run, finishing the season with a 3.36 FIP. During his tenure with Tampa Bay, Cobb didn’t win any accolades, but he won 10 games or more in each of his four full seasons, providing the Rays a solid, dependable piece in the middle of the rotation.
7. B.J. Upton
Upton did most of his damage in the 2000s, but he was still a very productive player for the Rays in the three seasons he was with the franchise during this decade. After hitting 23 home runs during the ‘11 season, Upton hit a career-high 28 homers in ‘12. From ‘10-12, Upton hit 69 home runs and stole 109 bases. That’s still pretty good
8. Blake Snell
Snell’s historic 2018 is the reason why he’s on this list. The left-hander became the second Tampa Bay pitcher to win the AL Cy Young Award, and his 21 wins that season is a franchise record. The Rays extended their southpaw to a five-year, $50 million deal during Spring Training, and it was well deserved. Snell battled injuries in ‘19 but returned in time to earn his first career save in their Game 4 win over the Astros in the AL Division Series. Don’t be surprised if Snell is atop next decade’s top 10 list.
9. James Shields
Like Upton, Shields’ best days with the Rays came during the 2000s, but he was still a quality starter in three seasons during this decade. Shields made the All-Star team in ‘11 and finished that year with a 2.82 ERA, which earned him a third-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting.
10. Jeremy Hellickson
Hellickson concludes the list after posting five solid seasons with the Rays. He won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2011 after going 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA. Hellickson never developed into a front-end starter, but he still had a solid showing with Tampa Bay.