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Moments in Rays History: Drafting Wade Townsend

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On June 7th, 2004 the Baltimore Orioles selected Wade Townsend out of Rice University with the 8th overall pick in the annual draft. Rice University must have had a dominant rotation, because Townsend had two teammates selected just before him with Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann being drafted 3rd and 4th respectfully.

The Orioles made a low offer to Townsend that was way under the recommended amount for an 8th overall pick. Townsend decided to return to Rice and finish earning his degree. So, when the next year came around, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected Townsend with again the 8th overall pick in the draft. Having the 8th pick in the draft, was the lowest selection for the team since their inaugural season in 1998.

Niemann, Humbler, and Townsend

Source - Associated Press

Townsend's 2005 Scouting Video

Here's Baseball America's write-up of Townsend leading up the 2005 draft:

Pitches at 90-92 mph with his trademark spike curveball and an effective changeup. Because most in the scouting community believe Baltimore botched the negotiations, Townsend's signability isn't a factor held against him. He's expected to sign quickly for close to slot money, and was rumored as high as the top two picks as a budget choice. That talk dimmed when his fastball sat at 85-89 mph in consecutive mid-May workouts, but he's still a polished pitcher with a track record of success.

Townsend negotiated quickly this time and signed less than a week later on the 11th. He'd make his professional debut in Low-A Hudson Valley where he struggled in 12 games. Following the year, it was  revealed that Townsend would require Tommy John surgery which would sideline him for all of 2006.

In 2007, Townsend returned but he still struggled with injuries, and also struggled in the limited time he actually spent pitching. The next two years, the story was the same as nagging injuries and poor performance dropped Townsend's position in the organization.

On August 3rd, 2009 after four grueling years, the Rays cut ties with Townsend. He tried to make a comeback with Toronto, but was released and officially retired in 2010.

Despite not ever making it into the majors, Townsend still found a way to make big as he has become a successful professional poker player.

Townsend's selection is still one of biggest bust in team history as numerous solid players were selected just after him. Players such as Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Garza. Townsend was one of just three players from the 2005 first round, and also the the first in the top 16, not to make it to the big leagues.

There are busts in every draft, like Jeff Clement never lived up to his hype, but he at least progressed through the minors.

The entire 2005 draft was pretty much a flop for Tampa Bay as the only player select who'd produce at the major league level for them was Jeremy Hellickson, taken in the 4th round. However, it wasn't for a lack of great choices.

Tampa Bay attempted to draft several players who became great players, but only after Tampa failed to sign them and they were later selected by other clubs in later drafts, namely Bryan Morris, Wade Miley, Ike Davis, and Tommy Hunter.

Fortunately for the Rays, they'd have much more success in the next two drafts that'd help lead them into the perennial contender that they are today.

The complete 2005 first round:

1. Justin Upton - ARI

2. Alex Gordon - KC

3. Jeff Clement - SEA

4. Ryan Zimmerman - WAS

5. Ryan Braun - MIL

6. Ricky Romero - TOR

7. Troy Tulowitzky - COL

8. Wade Townsend - TB

9. Mike Pelfrey - NYM

10. Cameron Maybin - DET

11. Andrew McCutchen - PIT

12. Jay Bruce - CIN

13. Brandon Snyder - BAL

14. Trevor Crowe - CLE

15. Lance Broadway - CHW

16. Chris Volstad - FLA

17. C.J. Henry - NYY

18. Cesar Carrillo - SD

19. John Mayberry - TEX

20. Mark Pawelek - CHC

21. Cliff Pennington - OAK

22. Aaron Thompson - FLA

23. Jacoby Ellsbury - BOS

24. Brian Bogusevic - HOU

25. Matt Garza - MIN

26. Craig Hansen - BOS

27. Joey Devine - ATL

28. Colby Rasmus - STL

29. Jacob Marceaux - FLA

30. Tyler Greene - STL

31. Matt Torra - ARI

32. Chaz Roe - COL

33. Johnny Drennen - CLE

34. Ryan Tucker - FLA

35. Cesar Ramos - SD

36. Travis Buck - OAK

37. Trevor Bell - ANA

38. Eli Iorg - HOU

39. Hank Sanchez - MIN

40. Luke Hochevar - LAD

41. Beau Jones - ATL

42. Clay Buchholz - BOS

43. Mark McCormick - STL

44. Sean West - FLA

45. Jed Lowrie - BOS

46. Tyler Herron - STL

47. Michael Bowden - BOS

48. Garrett Olson - BAL