Rays' Top 5 shortstops: Toribio's take

April 20th, 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

1) Julio Lugo, 2003-06
Key fact: Leads all Rays shortstops with 550 career hits

Lugo played 12 solid seasons in the Majors, having his most success in his four seasons with the Rays. He provided some stability at the position for parts of those four seasons, before being traded to the Dodgers in 2006. In his time with the Rays, Lugo also made his mark in the record book.

The shortstop hit .287 with the Rays, which ranks sixth in franchise history. Lugo is also ninth in hits (550), sixth in on-base percentage (.350), ninth in runs (283) and 10th in doubles (107) and triples (15). Lugo also finished with a 13.5 bWAR with the Rays, the highest of any shortstop.

2) Jason Bartlett, 2008-10
Key fact: All-Star in 2009

Though Lugo gets the nod as the best shortstop in franchise history, Bartlett had the best single season by any shortstop in Rays history. Bartlett made the All-Star team in 2009, and it was well-deserved.

Bartlett hit 14 home runs in ‘09, slashing .320/.389/.490 in 137 games. He also recorded 160 hits that season, which is behind only Lugo’s 182 in 2005 for the franchise single-season mark. Bartlett was also the starting shortstop on the Rays team that made the World Series in ‘08. He became a fan favorite during his three seasons with the Rays, and rightfully so.

3) Willy Adames, 2018-present
Key fact: 20 home runs in 2019 is most in a season by a Rays shortstop

Through his first two seasons in the big leagues, Adames has met the expectations that came with his high prospect ranking. He will always be linked as the prized acquisition in the David Price trade, and he’s starting to live up to the hype.

Adames’ 2019 season was one of the best by a Rays shortstop, and that was after he hit .200 in March and April. Despite that slow start, Adames hit 20 home runs, a single-season record by a Rays shortstop, and had an .807 OPS in the second half of the season.

The 24-year-old has compiled a 5.6 bWAR in his first 237 games in the Majors, and it appears to be only a matter of time before Adames becomes the best shortstop in franchise history.

“When we talk about Willy, he’s one of those guys that has that ‘it’ factor,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He carries himself really, really well in the clubhouse. He carries himself really, really well on the field. You can’t knock the smile off his face. And his priority is winning.”

4) Yunel Escobar, 2013-14
Key fact: Played 153 games in 2013

Escobar didn’t set any records, but he played 153 games at shortstop for a team that reached the postseason in 2013, and there’s a lot of value in that. The Rays haven’t had a lot of stability at the position since becoming a franchise, but Escobar provided that by playing a solid shortstop for two seasons. Escobar hit .257 with 16 home runs during his time in Tampa Bay. He also compiled a 3.1 bWAR, which ranks fourth among Rays shortstops.

5) Kevin Stocker, 1998-2000
Key fact: Started at shortstop in Rays' inaugural game

Stocker is the first shortstop in franchise history, and he also had a pretty good season in 1999. During that year, Stocker hit .299 but was limited to 79 games. Unfortunately for Stocker and the Rays, the shortstop only played more than 80 games once during his two-plus seasons in Tampa Bay.

Honorable mentions

With the hype that Tim Beckham had around him, he was going to have to make numerous All-Star Games in order to live up to it. He didn’t do that, but he still played a pair of seasons with the franchise. There’s a solid argument that Adeiny Hechavarria is one of the best defenders in franchise history, so he gets an honorable mention. Asdrúbal Cabrera, Ozzie Guillen, Aaron Ledesma and Elliott Johnson all also get some consideration.