Tuesday, June 9, 2009

(Devil) Rays Card of the Day

Paul Wilder
1997 Bowmans Best Card #132
Welcome to the second installment of the (Devil) Rays Card of the Day. In celebration of today being draft day and the fact that Rays pick the latest in the draft this year since they selected this young man, Paul Wilder with their first selection, the 29th overall, in the 1996 draft. This year, the Rays have the 30th pick and have not yet selected.
Wilder was a high schooler from Raleigh, North Carolina. He was a big, hulking lefty, who was tabbed from the start to be a designated hitter. That should have been the first clue…
Immediately after being drafted, he was trotted around town for appearances and autograph signings. I, myself, was dumb enough to let him graffiti a baseball. He was the hope of our young team that had yet to play a game.
He showed promise. His first hit was a double and he hit it off of Jimmy Key, who was making a rehab start in the (rookie) Gulf Coast League. I was there. Paul Wilder was to be the future of our new team. He led the GCL in walks that year with 37. His physique made young pitchers throw around him. He made it as high in the minor leagues as (hi) A with the Bakersfield Blaze. He played 252 games at A level or lower. His final line was .202 batting average, 28 homers and 108 rbis. Pretty good for a season, but not what you would expect from your top prospect spanned over 6 seasons. He was plagued with injuries and lack of interest and was released from the (Devil) Rays system. He attempted a comeback with the Independent League Pennsylvania Road Warriors in 2002, his last time playing (semi) professional baseball. He lasted just 5 games with the Warriors and hit .078 with 12 strikeouts. I have no idea what he’s doing now.
Let’s hope the Rays use their first round pick more wisely this year.
Some others that can boast as being the Rays first overall pick are: Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, Delmon Young, Tim Beckham, David Price, Jeff Nieman and Evan Longoria.
As a side note, from their first draft in 1996, the (Devil) Rays did choose a right handed pitcher in the 34th round from Central Arizona named Dan Wheeler.
Go Rays!!!

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