We have discussed this twice before within posts about other topics…We felt the topic needed its own stage…

It usually goes something like this:

The Rays are doing a great job this year…Of course they have been bad so long that they were able to capitalize on all those high draft picks.

Nothing irks us more than when somebody (mainstream media-types in particular) perpetuates a myth without actually doing any, you know, research. We heard it again from the Blue Jays TV announcers during game 1 of the current series.

Of the 28 players on the roster (including 3 on DL), only three were drafted by the Rays in the first round (BJ Upton, Evan Longoria, Rocco Baldelli) and Rocco has only been with the Rays since Aug. 10. Of the remaining players, Carl Crawford was drafted in the 2nd round, in which every other team passed on him at least once, and four were drafted in the 10th round or later, including two very important pieces of the starting rotation, James Shields (16th round) and Andy Sonnanstine (13). 13 players were acquired via trade and seven were signed as free agents including two players that were signed to minor league deals (Eric Hinske, Carlos Pena).


Not a whole lot of high draft picks in that group.

And in case anybody thinks that the 13 players acquired via trade were traded for a bunch of high draft picks, let’s breakdown each of those trades [Ed. note: in the right column, notes in parentheses indicate how the traded player was originally acquired by the Rays]…


And all those “high draft picks” that the Rays have been hording? Starting in 1999 (first season in which draft pick was based on previous season’s record) the Rays have selected 10 players in the first round. Let’s see how those picks have fared…


Only two players have been significant contributors to this year’s roster. The Red Sox have four players that have logged significant playing time this season, that were drafted in just the first round of the 2005 draft (Jacoby Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie).

The Rays have the best record in baseball this season due to several factors, only one of which has to do with sucking for 10 years: 1) They are the master of the role-player trade. While most teams target stars or potential stars in trades, and think roles can be filled from within, the Rays have targeted players on other teams that would be more valuable to the Rays than to their original team; 2) [from commenter Robert] “Rays have also done a good job trolling the junkyard of discarded players and the free agent lists.” Similar to point 1 but on the free agent market (ie. Pena, Hinske, Percival, Reyes); 3) Using their most valuable asset to turn two negatives into positives. They traded Young for Garza and Bartlett, who solidified both the rotation and the defense, which in turn helped the pitchers. The Rays recognized that the number of runs created by Young was not nearly as many as the number of runs that could be prevented by adding a solid pitcher and a gold glove-caliber shortstop; 4) Joe Maddon. In only his 3rd season, Papa Joe is already in line for his first Manager of the Year award and arguably is one of the top 5 managers in baseball.

So next time you hear somebody say the Rays are only good because they have been drafting near the top of the draft for 10 years, slap them across the face and then make them read this post.

 
 

25 Comments

  1. steve-o1285 says:

    Thank you!

    Now I need to study the post, so I can use it in case I ever get into a verbal argument.

  2. jays fan says:

    Just because a player is taken in the second round doesn’t mean that isn’t the affect of high draft picks. Those second round picks are often higher than some teams 1st picks because of draft pick conpensation. And ofcoarse the whole team isn’t contructed from draft picks. But the core was, or where results of trades. The Rays also had the advantage of always being sellers, which is how ofcoarse they aquired their ace.

  3. Anonymous says:

    actually all of the compensatory picks are before the second round. i dont have this year’s numbers, but last year there were 64 players picked before the second round started. those “second rounders” are really more like third rounders

  4. david says:

    Crawford was the 52nd pick in ’99.

    as for being sellers. The Rays are not the only team that is selling more often than they are buying and yet they are the only team that has the best record in baseball

  5. Robert Rittner says:

    You are exactly right. I posted something similar in response to that kind of ill-informed statement on another site. Why don’t people look at the facts before generalizing?

  6. Anonymous says:

    though I agree that the Rays have done excellent work through trades and developing talent. to pretend like having high draft picks hasn’t been a large piece of the puzzle is crazy. They weren’t just first round picks, they are top 5 draft picks. then again that doesnt always get you places (ie pirates and royals).

    here’s first rounders they’ve either drafted or traded for.

    scott kazmir (15th pick overall)
    j.p. howell (31st pick overall)
    matt garza (24th pick overall)
    gabe gross (15th pick overall)
    rocco badelli (6th pick overall)
    evan longoria (3rd pick overall)
    bj upton (2nd pick overall)

    I don’t agree its the only reason, but lets not get cute and pretend like its unrelated.

  7. YanksRule says:

    I'm not going to show this post to anybody who says that, unless I want to show them how fucking stupid Rays fans are.

    The Rays without Upton, Longoria, Garza & Bartlett would be the same, sub 70 win team they always have been. Sure, they've done lots of nice things and gotten lucky on guys like Pena and Hinske, but to deny the fact that their success can be attributed to their drafting position is absurd.

  8. The Professor says:

    yes, but Kazmir, Howell and Gross had nothing to do with the Rays record. Those were high draft picks by other teams. The Rays traded for those players. ANYBODY could have traded for those players.

  9. Anonymous says:

    yanksrule,

    that would be like saying that the Yankees only win because they spend a lot of money…oh wait that IS why.

  10. Sean G says:

    gotten lucky on Pena and Hinske?

    they have signed 2 free agents to minor league deals in the past two years and both have been two of the Rays best offensive weapons this season. 1 is luck. 2 is a pattern.

  11. YanksRule says:

    Absolutely. And it will start again next year hopefully, once Hank goes out and buys Sabathia and Teixeira. At least we can admit it though.

  12. Anonymous says:

    i love that the professor said anyone could have traded for those players. sure, anyone whose not in a pennent race can trade a c rate starter (their best pitcher) for a future ace, or a former first overall pick for a 3rd starter. circumstances surrounding them being the devil dogs for so long set up the ability to succeed now. i’m not claiming no work was done by the front office, but like i said lets not get cute…

    also the yanks took a flier on pena and got nothing, the sox had both pena and hinske and didnt recieve much either. pena/hinske suddenly they start living up to their potential again. and you say its not luck its the luck of finding a diamond in the rough. get real. congrats on good team, but try not to be so deluted.

  13. The Professor says:

    there were still 15 teams not in contention. you are saying that none of them had a “c starter”? or wanted a “future ace”?

    and i am pretty certain that even a few of the teams in contention would have made the deal if they thought Kazmir was a future ace.

    And besides, Kid K is far from being the Rays’ ace this season. The guy rarely works more than 5 innings. In a 2-start stretch recently he pitched 9 innings TOTAL.

  14. krewezer says:

    This article was intended to debunk a myth, not create one for others to debunk. If you read what is said, there are not a lot of high draft picks on the Rays, period. Amazing that they play so well as a team, without a .300 hitter, a 20 game winner or a 40 home run guy. They are just a team. They also have lost arguable their 3 most important players to injury, and are still winning. Teamwork. As far as “luck” picking up Pena and Hinske, someone had to look at them and see something useful. Good scouting. And for another thing, they were given the opportunity to play, due to injuries or whatever, and they made the most of it. Oh well, whenever someone does well (especially without spending a lot of money) people will try to explain it away when it does not fit their preconceptions.

  15. steve-o1285 says:

    You may call Pena and Hinske luck, I call it good coaching.

  16. Elijah says:

    Prof is right. it is not that he is saying the drafts didnt help. obviously they did. *cough* Longoria *cough*. But when people talk about the Rays they act like the Rays have 15 players that were drafted in the first 5 picks of the draft and that is just not the case. If the Rays tried to field a team made up entirely of their top picks from each draft of the last 10 years, they would still be in last place.

  17. The Professor says:

    in a sense Hinske might have been a bit of “luck” in that I think the minor league deal was a bit of a wake up call. Still it was the Rays that gave him a job and playing time.

    Pena on the other hand was indeed good coaching. Maddon and Hendu were the first coaches to convince Pena that he did not have to pull everything.

  18. mj says:

    excellent post

  19. Clayton says:

    I am too lazy to go back, but the last time this came up, Prof, you pulled the number of sandwich picks that Boston has had in the past few years. The large market teams end up with more first rounders than anyone else due to the high turnover among their highly paid free agents, right? Hence all those 2005 first rounders playing for the Sox right now.

    The Rays are good because of shrewd trading and some good coaching. I would say that the draft has actually not been kind to us, save for the last two years. Prof’s chart bears that out.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Rays will be back to a sub .500 team next year.

  21. Buck Foston says:

    why is that?

    because of all the players that are playing above themselves and having career years? like…??…ummm…oh yeah nobody is. in fact several players are having off-years, like Upton and Crawford and Kazmir.

    maybe it is because of all the free agents they are going to lose? like…??…ummm…Eric Hinske. Yep, that’s it.

    Maybe it is because they don’t have even more top prospects knocking on the door? Oh wait! David Price, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Reid Brignac.

    sorry pal. get used to it. Rays are here to stay.

  22. Zed says:

    In 2007 the Rays had a worst in MLB 6.16 bullpen ERA. In 2008 they are #5 with a 3.48 ERA. In a division with the Yankees and Red Sox, who are known for working counts, the importance of the bullpen can’t be understated. None of that had to do with first round picks.

    On the other hand, you overplay your hand. 5 players on the 25-man roster are the direct result of 1st round picks: Baldelli, Upton, Longoria, Garza, and Bartlett. Oh, boo hoo.

    You bring up the Red Sox as a comparison (btw, only Jacoby and Hansen were true 1st rounders. Lowrie and Buccholz were sandwich picks.) Most Sox fans, myself included, would credit the draft and player development as part of the reason for the team’s success. Why run away from it?

  23. The Professor says:

    first of all, at the time the post was written, Rocco had been on the roster for about a week. So it is only 4 that have been significant contributors this season.

    and nobody is running from the draft success. we are quite proud of it.

    the problem is that many, including members of the mainstream media outside of the Tampa/St.Pete act as if the Rays are winning this year by default. As if they did nothing to earn it. That they were so bad for so long, that this season was supposedly expected because of all the high draft picks.

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