ST. PETERSBURG -- The First-Year Player Draft is the lifeblood for any organization -- particularly one like the Rays, given the team's finances. Drafting and developing their own from farm to table is a necessity.
Throughout the team's existence, the Rays have devoted a lot of time and resources to make the best available picks in every Draft. Some of those picks have paid off, some have not. The Rays will open with the 20th overall selection this year.
The 2014 Draft will take place on June 5-7, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, June 5, at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 6.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a look at the best player the Rays have selected in each of the first 15 rounds. There is certainly room for debate on some of the choices for the rounds in which the Rays have made unique selections, which becomes evident after reading the list that follows:
Round 1: Evan Longoria, 2006
It's a tough call between Longoria and David Price, whom the Rays drafted in 2007 and won a Cy Young Award ('12). Longoria, however, won the '08 American League Rookie of the Year Award, he's won two Gold Gloves, and his arrival coincides with the Rays' becoming winners. Either player can be argued to be the best pick in this round, which has also seen the club select B.J. Upton, Delmon Young and Jeff Niemann.
Round 2: Carl Crawford, 1999
If the Rays had a Hall of Fame, Crawford would be the first member -- he is Rays royalty. The athletic outfielder played nine years for the Rays, hitting .296 with 104 home runs, 592 RBIs and 409 stolen bases.
Round 3: Wade Davis, 2004
Davis made 64 starts for the team from 2009-11 before moving to the bullpen in '12 and making 54 appearances. He went to the Royals, along with James Shields, in the trade that brought Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to the Rays.
Round 4: Jeremy Hellickson, 2005
Hellickson is the pick over Alex Cobb, also a fourth-round pick (2006), because of his body of work. The right-hander took a step back in '13 and has not pitched in '14 due to elbow surgery, but he is a heady pitcher and a former AL Rookie of the Year ('11). In years to come, this pick could easily flip in Cobb's favor.
Round 5: Jake McGee, 2004
The Rays have had some nice picks in the fifth round, including infielder Aubrey Huff (1998) and right-hander Seth McClung ('99), but McGee is the hands down selection based on the pitcher he has developed into. The left-hander is a bullpen weapon with a "here it is" 97-99 mph fastball.
Round 6: Ryan Rupe, 1998
The Rays drafted the right-hander out of Texas A&M, and he looked like he had a promising future before injuries slowed him. He made 85 appearances (83 were starts) for the club in four seasons, posting a 23-37 record with a 5.84 ERA.
Round 7: Mickey Callaway, 1996
The right-hander out of the University of Mississippi spent parts of two seasons with the Rays, posting a 1-2 record with a 7.40 ERA in seven appearances.
Round 8: Matt Moore, 2007
The left-hander out of Moriarty High School in Moriarty, N.M., has been a steal for the Rays after first joining the team at the end of the 2011 season. He won 17 games in '13, but is currently on the disabled list after having season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Round 9: Toby Hall, 1997
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas product caught for the Rays for seven seasons, hitting .262 with 44 home runs and 251 RBIs before being traded to the Dodgers in 2006.
Round 10: Desmond Jennings, 2006
Jennings is an Itawamba Community College (Fulton, Miss.) product, who currently starts for the Rays in center field. He is a speedy player with power and still has the potential to be a great player.
Round 11: Mark Worrell, 2001
The Rays drafted the right-hander in the 11th round, but he did not sign with the club. The Cardinals picked him in the 12th round of the 2004 Draft, and he went on to pitch in eight Major League games split between the Cards and Orioles.
Round 12: John Jaso, 2003
Jaso first joined the Rays in 2008 during the team's first winning season, giving them a power-hitting catcher. He spent three seasons with the team, hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 71 RBIs in 203 games.
Round 13: Andy Sonnanstine, 2004
The Kent State University product became a member of the Rays' starting rotation in 2007. His best season came in '08, when he went 13-9 with a 4.38 ERA. He went 28-31 with a 5.26 ERA in 132 appearances (80 starts) for the Rays from 2007-11.
Round 14: Jeff Ridgway, 1999
Ridgway pitched in only three games for the Rays, but the left-hander will be remembered for being traded to the Braves in a January 2008 deal that brought Willy Aybar to the team. Aybar became a valuable member of the '08 and '09 clubs.
Round 15: Mike Pelfrey, 2002
Pelfrey did not sign with the Rays after they drafted him out of Wichita Heights High School in Wichita, Kan. The Mets drafted him in the first round of the 2005 Draft, and he reached the Major Leagues in '06. He pitched seven seasons for the Mets and is now in his second season with the Twins.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com.