Even though he only played in 70 games, Tampa Bay Rays' shortstop Wander Franco managed to finish in third place in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting 2021, behind his teammate Randy Arozarena and Houston Astros' righty Luis Garcia.
Franco slashed .288/.347/.463 with seven home runs, 39 RBIs and a 2.5 fWAR in less than half a season, which makes you think he has a chance to be an All-Star as soon as this season.
Smartly, the Rays got out ahead of things and signed Franco to an 11-year/$182 million deal that will begin in 2022. It's a lot of money to guarantee to someone that is still only 20 years old, but if Franco develops into one of the game's best players, the extension -- which also includes a $25 million club option for the 2033 season -- will likely be viewed as one of the most team-friendly deals in the history of the sport.
Who knows if the Rays will still be in Tampa Bay by the end of Franco's deal, or if he'll play the entirety of what's going to turn into a very attractive contract with the franchise. But if Franco plays even half of this pact as a Ray, he has a chance to go down as the best player in the history of the young franchise, which began play in 1998.
While we anticipate a rather rapid ascension from Franco up this list, he's a few years away from cracking it. Here are the nine greatest players in the history of the
9. Scott Kazmir (2004-2009)
Best Season as a Ray: 2007 - 13-9 with a 3.48 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.45 FIP, 1.379 WHIP, 239 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 4.8 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: 55-44 with a 3.92 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3.87 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, 874 strikeouts, one complete game and a 14.8 fWAR
A first-round pick in the 2002 MLB Draft, Kazmir made two All-Star teams (2006, 2008) as a member of the Rays. Wedged in between his two All-Star campaigns was the 2007 season, where Kazmir led the American League with 239 strikeouts. Among all pitchers in franchise history, Kazmir is tied for third with 55 wins, and is third with a 14.8 fWAR. He narrowly edged out Blake Snell for this spot.
8. Fred McGriff (1998-2001; 2004)
Best Season as a Ray: 1999 - .310/.405/.552 with 32 home runs, 104 RBIs, 86 walks, .957 OPS, 142 OPS+ and a 3.6 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .291/.380/.484 with 99 home runs, 359 RBIs, 305 walks, .864 OPS, 122 OPS+ and 8.5 fWAR
Ahead of their first season of play, the Devil Rays acquired McGriff, a Tampa Bay native, from the Atlanta Braves. "The Crime Dog" would play in parts of five seasons with the franchise across two stints, hitting 99 of his 493 career home runs with Tampa. McGriff is the franchise leader in career on-base percentage (.380), slugging percentage (.484) and OPS (.864).
7. Kevin Kiermaier (2013-Present)
Best Season as a Ray: 2016 - .246/.331/.410 with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs, 40 walks, .741 OPS, 104 OPS+ and a 4.0 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .249/.310/.410 with 75 home runs, 294 RBIs, 222 walks, 709 hits, .720 OPS, 98 OPS+ and 21.4 fWAR
While Kiermaier's offensive numbers haven't ever jumped off the page, he's been one of the best defensive outfielders of his era. A 31st-round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Kiermaier has 50 career defensive runs saved and the highest defensive WAR total (17.4) in Rays history. Kiermaier is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and won the 2015 Platinum Glove Award as the American League's best overall defender.
6. Carlos Peña (2007-2010; 2012)
Best Season as a Ray: 2007 - .282/.411/.627 with 46 home runs, 121 RBIs, 103 walks, 1.037 OPS, 172 OPS+ and a 5.9 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .230/.360/.483 with 163 home runs, 468 RBIs, 460 walks, 559 hits, .843 OPS, 126 OPS+ and 14.1 fWAR
Peña made an All-Star team, won a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award in five seasons with the Rays. He finished ninth in American League MVP voting in 2007 and 2008, before leading the junior circuit with 39 home runs in 2009. Peña's 163 home runs are second in franchise history.
5. James Shields (2006-2012)
Best Season as a Ray: 2011 - 16-12 with a 2.82 ERA, 134 ERA+, 3.42 FIP, 1.043 WHIP, 225 strikeouts, 11 complete games and a 4.8 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA, 107 ERA+, 3.84 FIP, 1.223 WHIP, 1,250 strikeouts and 23.9 fWAR
Tampa Bay invested a 16th-round pick in Shields during the 2000 MLB Draft and was rewarded with the greatest right-handed pitcher in franchise history. Shields finished third in American League Cy Young voting in 2011, and is the franchise's all-time leader in wins (87), innings pitched (1,452 2/3), strikeouts (1,250), complete games (19) and complete-game shutouts (eight).
4. Ben Zobrist (2006-2014)
Best Season as a Ray: 2009 - .297/.405/.543 with 27 home runs, 91 RBIs, 91 walks, .948 OPS, 149 OPS+ and an 8.7 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .264/.354/.429 with 114 home runs, 511 RBIs, 542 walks, 1,016 hits, .783 OPS, 117 OPS+ and 33.1 fWAR
For just shy of a decade, it felt like every time you looked up, Zobrist was playing in the World Series. His first appearance in the Fall Classic came in 2008, as he was a super-utility star for Joe Maddon's squad. The greatest Swiss Army knife in franchise history, Zobrist's 33.6 fWAR between 2009 and 2014 was fifth best among all qualified position players, trailing only Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina and Robinson Cano.
3. David Price (2008-2014)
Best Season as a Ray: 2012 - 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA, 150 ERA+, 3.05 FIP, 1.100 WHIP, 205 strikeouts, two complete games and a 4.3 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: 82-47 with a 3.18 ERA, 122 ERA+, 3.33 FIP, 1.142 WHIP, 1,065 strikeouts, 10 complete games and 22.4 fWAR
The Rays selected Price with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, and he quickly developed into the greatest pitcher that the organization has ever had. In seven seasons with the Rays, Price made four All-Star teams and in 2012, he became the first pitcher in franchise history to win the American League Cy Young Award. Among all pitchers in Rays history, Price is the all-time leader in fWAR (21.3), ERA (3.18), WHIP (1.142) and FIP (3.33), among other categories.
2. Carl Crawford (2002-2010)
Best Season as a Ray: 2010 - .307/.356/.495 with 19 home runs, 90 RBIs, 46 walks, .851 OPS, 135 OPS+ and a 7.7 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .297/.337/.444 with 104 home runs, 592 RBIs, 293 walks, 1,480 hits, .781 OPS, 107 OPS+ and 36.9 fWAR
A second-round pick in 1999, Crawford is the greatest outfielder in Rays' history. Across nine seasons with the franchise, Crawford made four All-Star teams and finished as high as seventh in American League MVP voting. Crawford led the AL and triples and stolen bases on four different occasions as a Ray, and is appropriately the franchise's all-time leader in both categories.
1. Evan Longoria (2008-2017)
Best Season as a Ray: 2009 - .281/.364/.526 with 33 home runs, 113 RBIs, 72 walks, .889 OPS, 133 OPS+ and a 7.2 fWAR
Career Stats as a Ray: .270/.341/.483 with 261 home runs, 892 RBIs, 569 walks, 1,471 hits, .823 OPS, 125 OPS+ and 48.6 fWAR
Longoria won the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year Award, just two years after Tampa Bay selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the MLB Draft. A three-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, Longoria is the Rays' all-time leader in fWAR (48.6), home runs (261), RBIs (892), doubles (338), extra-base hits (618), walks (569), runs scored (780) and total bases (2,630). He was an easy pick for the top spot.