One could argue that having a pitcher like Jeremy Hellickson come out of the 2005 draft equates to a job well done by the organization that year. However the rest of the 2005 draft class has not proven to be fruitful for the Rays' franchise. No player other than Hellickson has played a game for the big league club, and first baseman Henry Wrigley is the only other player still in the organization.
The Rays drafted a total of 11 pitchers in the first 15 rounds, and only Hellickson has had any kind of sustained long-term success in professional baseball. Former General Manager Chuck LaMar has been widely praised for assembling the majority of the core of the 2008 World Series team, and he certainly deserves credit for that. But the last draft on his watch was not a good one, and some might argue that it was an unmitigated disaster. Jeremy Hellickson may well be the final gift from LaMar to the organization.
Here is a look at how the three pitchers drafted ahead of Hellickson in the 2005 June Amateur Draft have fared.
Round 1: RHP Wade Townsend--- Townsend was the eighth overall pick in 2005 out of Rice University, the same school that produced current Rays pitcher Jeff Niemann. He was given a 1.5 million dollar signing bonus, but never made it past AA Montgomery and was eventually released by the organization in August of 2009.
Townsend is a poster boy for having a promising career be ruined by injury. He suffered a torn labrum in the 2008 Arizona Fall League and went under the knife for the second time in his career. Townsend had previously had Tommy John surgery in 2005 after his first professional season with the Short Season A Hudson Valley Renegades. He would spend all of 2006 rehabbing from the surgery and never seemed to get his career on track after that.
While in the Rays Minor League system he compiled a record of 7-21 with a 5.68 earned run average. His most successful year in the organization was in 2007 for the Low A Columbus Catfish when he went 6-10 with a 5.08 earned run average and struck out 92 hitters in 102.2 innings. He signed a Minor League deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 but was soon released and briefly played for the Laredo Broncos in the Independent Leagues.
Round 2: RHP Chris Mason--- Mason actually enjoyed a fair amount of success in the Rays system. In 2007 he was named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Pitcher and was also selected as MiLB.com's Double A Pitcher of the Year. That season he went 15-4 in 28 starts with 136 strikeouts for the Biscuits, and had an earned run average of 2.57. He led Montgomery to the league title, and did not lose in his final 13 starts.
Things quickly went downhill for Mason though. In 2008 with the AAA Durham Bulls he posted a disappointing 6.21 earned run average and went 3-10 in 33 appearances, and was removed from the team's rotation after 17 starts. 2009 would not be much better for Mason. He was sent back to AA Montgomery where he went 3-5 with a 6.24 earned run average. Unfortunately for Mason though his career with the Rays had run it's course. He pitched in the Mets farm system at the end of 2009 and has not pitched for a Major League organization since.
Mason had a career resurrection of sorts when he signed with the La New Bears of the Chinese Professional Baseball league in Taiwan. In 2010 he went 10-7 with a 2.63 earned run average. In 2011 he pitched for the Road Warriors in the Independent Atlantic League and had a dismal year. In 21 games he was 0-7 with a 8.72 earned run average and he allowed 100 hits in 64 innings pitched. It is safe to say that Mason's career as a professional baseball pitcher may be close to being over.
Round 3: RHP Bryan Morris--- Morris was the 88th overall pick out of Tullahoma High School in Tullahoma, Tennessee but did not sign with the Devil Rays. He was drafted again in 2006 in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. In 2011 he pitched for the AA Altoona Curve and appeared in 35 games mostly as a reliever. For his Minor League career Morris has a 22-28 record with a 3.89 earned run average in five seasons.