Rays' Top 5 left fielders: Toribio's take

April 27th, 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 shortstops in Rays history. Next week: Left fielders.

Tampa Bay’s All-Time Team: Catcher | First base | Second base | Third base | Shortstop

1) Carl Crawford: 2002-10
Key fact: Four-time American League All-Star, most in franchise history

Crawford had options to play college basketball and football, but after being selected by the Rays in the second round of the 1999 Draft, the outfielder decided to play baseball. That decision worked out well for both parties.

In his nine seasons with Tampa Bay, Crawford displayed the athleticism and talent that made him a coveted three-sport athlete and a highly regarded prospect. Crawford stole 50 or more bases in five seasons with the Rays, including 60 in 2009, which is still a franchise record. Aside from holding the single-season franchise record for stolen bases, Crawford also leads the club in hits (1,480), batting average (.296), stolen bases (409) and triples (105). Crawford played in 1,235 games with the organization, second behind Evan Longoria’s 1,435.

2) Matt Joyce: 2009-14
Key fact: Made the AL All-Star team in 2011

Joyce was acquired from the Tigers in 2009 in the deal that sent Edwin Jackson to Detroit. Once he got traded to Tampa Bay, Joyce never looked back, becoming one of the most consistent players in the organization.

Joyce’s best season came in 2011, where he earned his only All-Star appearance. He hit 19 home runs that season and finished with an .825 OPS. While Joyce never quite built on that season, he was a solid bat in the lineup, finishing eighth in franchise history with 76 home runs and 280 RBIs.

3) Tommy Pham: 2018-19
Key fact: His 48-game on-base streak is longest in franchise history

Pham’s acquisition came as a surprise during the 2018 Trade Deadline, because it appeared like Tampa Bay was looking to trade away some experienced players, not gain some. But at a very affordable price, the Rays decided to acquire Pham from the Cardinals, and it turned out to be a great trade for them

Pham brought a certain attitude to the clubhouse, one that had been missing after a few losing seasons. As soon as Tampa Bay acquired Pham, the offense began to click and the winning commenced. In Pham’s first 56 games as with the Rays, the outfielder reached base in 53, leading the club to a 40-16 record. And his first 39 games with Tampa Bay is one of the best stretches in franchise history, as the outfielder posted a .1.071 OPS. Pham’s hard-working mentality rubbed off on the rest of the clubhouse, and there’s a lot of value in that.

4) Greg Vaughn: 2000-02
Key fact: Ranks 10th in franchise history with a .434 slugging percentage

Vaughn was 34 years old when he started playing for the Rays, and he certainly wasn’t putting up the same numbers he did earlier in his career, but he was still a very capable hitter in the middle of the order during his three seasons with Tampa Bay.

Vaughn made the AL All-Star team and hit 24 home runs in 2001, but his best season with the organization came the year before. Vaughn hit 28 home runs during the ‘00 season, finishing with an .864 OPS that actually ranked fourth in his career. The four-time All-Star played a decent amount of designated hitter with the Rays, but he spent 160 games in left field, earning him a spot on this list.

5) Corey Dickerson: 2016-17
Key fact: AL All-Star in 2017

In his two seasons with the Rays, Dickerson flashed his talent, and his 2017 All-Star campaign displayed the type of player he could be when it all comes together. But unfortunately for Dickerson, Tampa Bay designated him for assignment the following spring.

Dickerson hit 51 home runs in those two seasons with the Rays, but he also struck out 286 times in 298 games. He had a chance to be higher on this list if he had played a few more seasons with the club.

Honorable mentions
Johnny Damon played way too much DH in his one season with the Rays to make the list, but he still gets an honorable mention for his solid 2011 campaign. Sam Fuld didn’t make much of a contribution with the bat, but he has one of the best catches in franchise history. Brandon Guyer and Bubba Trammell also got some looks, but they ultimately ended up missing the cut.