Rays' Top 5 first basemen: Toribio's take

March 30th, 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 first basemen in Rays history. Next week: Second basemen.

1) Carlos Peña, 2007-10, '12
Key fact: 18.1 bWAR ranks seventh in franchise history

It’s hard to find a better four-year stretch than Peña's first four seasons with Tampa Bay. His 2007 campaign is also the best single-season performance by any Rays hitter, as he hit a career-high 46 home runs, still the club record for a season. He also holds the single-season franchise records for on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.627) and RBIs (121).

But while the 2007 season was his best, Peña continued his production all the way until the end of the decade. In his first four seasons with the club, Peña hit 144 home runs and drove in 407 runs. He won an American League Gold Glove Award in '08, made the All-Star team in '09 and received Most Valuable Player Award votes in ‘07 and ‘08.

Peña hit 163 home runs as a member of the Rays, second only to Evan Longoria, who hit 261 over his illustrious 10 years with Tampa Bay. Peña's .483 slugging percentage also ranks second in franchise history behind Fred McGriff’s .484.

2) Fred McGriff, 1998-2001, '04
Key fact: Ranks tied for second in franchise history with a .291 batting average

McGriff hit regardless of what uniform he was wearing, and that was the case when he sported a Devil Rays jersey. McGriff hit 78 home runs in his first three seasons with the Rays, including 27 during an All-Star season in 2000.

McGriff's name is all over the Rays’ record books. Aside from being second in batting average -- Carl Crawford is No. 1 at .296 -- McGriff also leads the franchise with a .380 career on-base percentage and ranks sixth with 603 hits. His bat alone gets him high on this list.

3) Aubrey Huff, 2000-06
Key fact: Received MVP votes in 2003

While Huff is remembered for his contributions to the Giants’ 2010 World Series team, his best days at the plate came during the seven seasons he wore a Devil Rays uniform, when he posted a 11.9 WAR. Huff hit 128 home runs as a member of the Rays, third all-time behind Longoria and Peña. He also ranks in the top five in batting average (.287), at-bats (3,028), hits (870), slugging percentage (.477), RBIs (449), games (799) and doubles (172).

4) James Loney, 2013-15
Key fact: Played in 158 games in 2013

There’s a real debate about who else deserves to make this list. We’re going with Loney at No. 4 due to his consistency and the stability he provided at the position for three seasons, including 2013, when the team made the postseason as a Wild Card. Loney’s .291 batting average with the Rays is tied with McGriff for second in franchise history. Loney hit 10 or more home runs just once in his four seasons with the Rays, but there’s real value in playing 155 games or more in back-to-back seasons.

5) Logan Morrison, 2016-17
Key fact: Finished with a 3.6 WAR in two seasons with the Rays

One really good season can get you on this list, and that’s exactly what happened with Morrison. He hit 38 home runs in 2017, and that’s really the only reason he made the cut. Morrison's 3.6 WAR with the Rays is the most he has recorded with any of his five teams during his 10-year career, 3.3 of it coming in ‘17. We’re open to debates over the last couple of spots.

Honorable mentions
Ji-Man Choi has been a fan favorite since being acquired in 2018, and he’s also making his mark on the field. His 3.1 WAR in two seasons has him knocking on Morrison’s door. Plus, the "Ji-Man Choi" chants at Tropicana Field during the postseason earn him some brownie points. … Casey Kotchman, C.J. Cron, Lucas Duda and Steve Pearce all had one-year stints with the Rays. Then there’s Dan Johnson, who gave the Rays two of the best memories in franchise history: a game-tying homer off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon that helped the Rays win the AL East in ‘08 and the famous game-tying home run against the Yankees in Game 162 in '11.