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Rays All-Time No. 1 Prospects (2004-2007)

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B.J. Upton and Delmon Young were once the stars of the Rays minor league system.

Ezra Shaw

Some much hype and pressure is thrust upon team's top prospects. Once a highly touted player is drafted or acquired, fans scour through minor league box scores and write ups of the potential young star, in hopes that one day he'll eventually lead the team championship glory.

Through the Tampa Bay Rays short history, a number of star players have possessed the top spot in the organization and went on to great things. Others however, have receded into obscurity to never be heard from again. So, without further ado, the Rays No. 1 prospects from 2004-2007 (ranked by Baseball America).

B.J. Upton

(2004)

B.J. Upton was selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with the 2nd overall pick of the 2002 June draft. After a solid first professional season in 2003, Upton ranked No. 1 in Tampa Bay's system and seemed on the fast track to the majors. Upton had a fantastic 2004, and made his MLB debut at the age of 19. He played considerably well for his age.

Upton 2004

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

The Devil Rays, though, thought the young shortstop needed more seasoning and had him play all of 2005 at Triple-A Durham. In 2006, Upton converted over to third base and finally broke into the big leagues.

In 2007, Upton played his first full year at the big league level and shined. In 129 games, he slashed .300/.381/.508 with 24 HR, 82 RBI, and 22 stolen bases, while also transitioning to center field. Upton was only 22 years old at this point and looked to be budding into one of the game's premier players, but he had a disappointing 2008 (even though he still put up 3.3 WAR).

Upton shined in the 2008 postseason though, blasting 7 HR in 16 playoff games -- which was 1 HR short of tying the all-time record set by Barry Bonds in 2002.

Upton had another disappointing season in 2009, but it could be excused due to shoulder surgery he'd had the offseason prior. At the end of the 2009 season, Upton became the first Rays to ever hit for the cycle when he accomplished the feat on October 2nd. Upton rebounded after 2009 with a solid 2010 season.

In 2011 and 2012 Upton had two more solid seasons and was seemingly ready to go to the next level. After the 2012 season, after an emotional last game with Tampa Bay, Upton became a free agent.

He signed with the Braves for 5 years, $75 million, joining his brother Justin Upton. The contract has been a catastrophe for the Braves as Upton has extremely underperformed, but he is still only 29 years old and could very well turn it around and became a solid force in the Braves lineup.

MiLB Stat Line: Slashed .295/.391/.454 with 50 HR, 238 RBI, and 156 SB in 495 games

MLB Stat Line: Slashed .243/.324/.400 with 139 HR, 508 RBI, 264 SB and accumulated 13.8 WAR in 1,233 games

Excerpt from Baseball America's write-up of Upton in 2004

Upton has enough pop to eventually hit 30 homers on an annual basis. Within the organization, only blazer Joey Gathright can top his baserunning talents. Defensively, Upton's range and quickness are unparalleled, and his footwork is outstanding.

Delmon Young

(2005-2007)

Delmon Young was taken with the first overall pick in the 2002 draft by Tampa Bay. It took all the way until September 8th for Young to sign, so he'd make his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League, where impressed scouts with his play.

The Devil Rays ambitiously assigned the 18 year to Class-A Charleston in 2004, but Young wasn't intimidated and he dominated the level. The following year, Young again dominated the next level at Double-A Montgomery earning a promotion to Triple-A Durham. At the end of the year, Young was named the minor league player of the year and also named the top prospect in all of baseball.

In 2006 though, Young's attitude resulted in some problems. On April 27th, after being called out on strikes and eventually ejected, Young tossed his bat and it struck the home plate umpire (side note, Jon Lester was the opposing pitcher).

Young was suspended 50 games as of a result of the incident. In July, after serving the suspension and again performing well, Young along with two other prospects (B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes) criticized the Devil Rays front office for having not been called up yet (which Young had also done the previous season).

Young finally received his wish on August 28th and homered in his first game. He finished the season on the Devil Rays roster and impressed with his playing time. The following year, Young was a staple in right field for the Devil Rays, playing in all 162 games. Due to his performance, Young received Rookie of the Year attention, finishing second for the award behind Dustin Pedroia.

On November 28th, 2007, Delmon Young was a key player a potentially franchise altering deal. The newly named Rays sent him along with Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie to the Minnesota Twins for Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eddie Morlan.

Delmon Young

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Young spent three and a half seasons in Minnesota, the final of which was his best in the majors, garnering MVP contention. He finished 10th in the voting, but in 2011, while in the midst of a dreadful season, Young was traded to the Detroit Tigers for a PTBNL (Lester Oliveros) and Cole Nelson.

Young had a decent 2012 season with the Tigers and even was awarded the ALCS MVP award. Then, he became a free agent for the first time in his career. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was released in August after underperforming. The Tampa Bay Rays then re-signed their former No. 1 pick to help with the playoff run, which he did.

Then after the 2013 season, he became a free agent again. He would spend the 2014 season with the Baltimore Orioles, whom he would re-sign with after the season.

MiLB Stat Line: Slashed .316/.360/.513 with 62 HR, 283 RBI, and 75 SB in 376 games

MLB Stat Line: Slashed .283/.317/.425 with 107 HR, 550 RBI, 36 SB, and accumulated 2.5 WAR in 1,066 games

Accolades:

  • Placed 2nd in RoTY voting in 2007
  • Placed 10th in MVP voting in 2010
Excerpt from Baseball America's write-up of Young in 2007

He has the potential to contend for batting titles with at least 25-30 homers per season. His baseball instincts also are obvious on the basepaths as well as in the outfield. Young has above-average speed and arm strength, along with plus accuracy on his throws from right field.