20. Durham Bulls Best Players of All time

John Means

The Durham Bulls have a long and proud history, dating back to the early 1900s. Founded in 1924 by local tobacco magnate George Bull, the team has become an institution in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region for its championship-winning performances on the diamond.

The name “Bulls” came from George Bull’s most successful brand of tobacco at that time: Bull Durham. Throughout their many years as a franchise they’ve experienced ups and downs due to wartime conflicts such as World War I, II and the Great Depression; however, each setback only made them stronger with more resilience than before.

Today fans come out every year to cheer on this beloved team – proving once again why it is always worth being part of something special like The Durham Bulls.

Table of Contents

1. Willy Adames


Willy Adames

Adames was drafted in the first round, 27th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2016 MLB Draft. He made his debut with the Brewers in 2018 and played 97 games for them that season.

In 2019, he split time between Milwaukee and their AAA affiliate Colorado Springs, hitting .268 with 2 home runs and 17 RBIs in 78 games total. 

Adames is expected to compete for a starting shortstop position on next year's team alongside Jett Bandy and Orlando Arcia Jr.

He has represented his country at both international tournaments (the 2017 World Baseball Classic as part of Nicaragua's national team) and the Pan American Games (2015). 

Willy Adames was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft. Adames made his MLB debut with the Rays on May 22, 2018, and recorded a batting average of .255 over 74 plate appearances.

In 2021, Adames was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and has since had success both at home (batting .312) and on the road (.292). 

Willy Adames is an aggressive hitter who makes consistent contact while also hitting for power. He is seen as a long-term solution at third base for either team he plays for moving forward.

Also Played For: milwaukee brewers

2. Ryne Stanek


Ryne Stanek Career

  • Win–loss record: 7–13
  • Earned run average: 3.34
  • Strikeouts: 355
  • World Series champion (2022)

Stanek was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 6th round of 2009 MLB Draft, but did not sign with them. He opted to attend college at Texas A&M University before being traded to Tampa Bay in 2017.

Stanek made his debut for the Rays on May 14, 2017 and finished the season with a 3-3 record and 2.92 ERA in 43 games (42 starts). His success led him to be named AL Rookie of The Month for May. 

In 2018, Stanek pitched for Houston where he had a 4-9 record with an ERA of 5.11 in 26 starts Stanek was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth round of the 2017 MLB draft.

He made his big league debut with the Rays in 2018 and posted a 3.34 ERA over 36 appearances (26 starts). In 2019, Stanek moved to Miami where he registered a 7–13 record with 355 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.99 over 33 appearances (27 starts). 

The right-hander joined the Houston Astros for the 2020 season and has posted an 8–10 record with 260 strikeouts and a 3.75 ERA so far this year.(through 6/5).

Also Played For: houston astros

3. Vidal Bruján


Vidal Bruján

Vidal Bruján is a 24-year-old switch hitter and second baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was signed by the Rays as an international free agent in 2017 and made his professional debut that same year with their Rookie League affiliate, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

In 2018, he spent time with both Advanced-A Bowling Green (56 games) and Double-A Montgomery (14 games), posting respectable batting averages of .288/.336/.527 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs between them. 

Bruján made his major league debut on July 25th against the New York Yankees, going 2 for 4 with one run scored in what would be his only appearance that season.

He returned to Triple-A Durham prior to the 2019 season, where he has continued to produce at a high level (.308 / 15 HR / 63 RBI). With injury plaguing several key members of the Rays' infield over recent weeks - including Kevin Kiermaier (knee surgery). 

Willy Adames (hamstring strain), Mallex Smith (elbow sprain) - Bruján's ascension up the depth chart looks all but assured moving forward.

Also Played For: tampa bay rays

4. Jonathan Aranda

Jonathan Aranda was drafted in the first round (No. 10 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He is a left-handed infielder and played for Tijuana in Mexico's Serie National Baseball League before being signed by the Rays.

Jonathan has an impressive batting average of .290 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs in just 94 games played this season, earning him MVP honors as Tijuana finished second in their league. 

In 2017, he hit .297 with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs while playing for Class A Advanced Visalia Oaks of the California League, making him one of only six players to hit at least 15 homers and steal 65 bases combined in two seasons since 2015.

Jonathan is also known for his strong throwing arm which has been compared to that of former Ray Evan Longoria (#3 on this list). His throws have ranged from 98 mph to 104 mph according to Fangraphs., which could make him an asset off the bench or even take over as a closer if needed down the road.

5. Brendan McKay


Brendan McKay Career

  • Golden Spikes Award (2017), Dick Howser Trophy (2017)

Brendan McKay is a pitcher, designated hitter and first baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was drafted by the Rays in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

In his rookie season, he posted a 3-4 record with a 4.86 ERA in 54 games (9 starts). In 2018, he had an outstanding season as both a starter and DH for Durham Bulls of the minor leagues, leading them to their first playoff appearance since 2009 while batting .326/.417/.

585 with 10 home runs and 56 RBIs in 123 games overall (.331 wOBA) The 2019 campaign has been even better so far as McKay is 6-1 with a 2.47 ERA (10 ER / 37 IP) through nine starts for Durham Bulls AAA affiliate before being called up to Tampa Bay on June 29th.

Where he has made three appearances without allowing an earned run (11 IP) including two scoreless relief appearances against Boston Red Sox (#1 & #2 hitters: Mitch Moreland & Jhonny Peralta; 8 ER / 74 H/19 BB allowed prior to this stretch).

6. Jaime Schultz


Jaime Schultz

Jaime Schultz was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. Schultz made his professional debut with the Hudson Valley Renegades in 2012 and then spent time with both the Lowell Spinners (2013-2014) and Durham Bulls (2015).

In 2016, Jaime Schultz had a breakout season playing for Durham where he went 10-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 games (24 starts). He became a full-time starter for Tampa Bay during 2017 and finished that year going 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 24 starts. 

Jaime Schultz as he went 14-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts, earning him AL Pitcher of The Month honors for August/September when he went 5-0 with 1 shutout, 43 strikeouts, and just 7 walks over those 6 games to help lead Tampa Bay to their first playoff appearance since 2013.

7. Christian Arroyo


Christian Arroyo

Christian Arroyo was born in Brooksville, Florida on May 30th 1995. He made his MLB debut with the San Francisco Giants in 2017 and has since played for Boston Red Sox.

Christian Arroyo is best known for his batting and throwing abilities, having registered a .277 AVG and a 2.98 ERA over 128 games played in the majors to date. 

Infielder Christian Arroyo is currently under contract with the Red Sox through 2022, making him one of the longest-serving players currently playing in Major League Baseball Christian Arroyo is a young, talented baseball player who has been playing for many years now.

He was born on October 16th, 1995 in the Dominican Republic and he plays as an outfielder. His father played professional baseball and his older brother also started playing at a very young age too. 

Christian first came to prominence when he starred for the United States 18U Baseball World Championship team that won silver in 2012. Since then he has had some good experiences with the Tampa Bay Rays (2018-2019) and Cleveland Indians (2020).

In 2020, Christian signed with the Boston Red Sox where he is currently playing professionally.

8. Matt Andriese


Matt Andriese

Matt Andriese made his MLB debut with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. He went 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA in 7 games that season. In 2016, he was traded to the LA Dodgers and finished the year going 9-5 with a 3.79 ERA in 27 starts for them.

In 2017, he had another good year starting 26 games for the Dodgers and going 12-9 with a 3.71 ERA before being traded to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline in 2018.

Where he pitched 5 starts for them before returning to Los Angeles as part of their rotation full time from there on out (14 Starts).

Matt is signed through 2020 with an option for 2021 at $11 million dollars ($10 million if not offered arbitration) so it's safe to say that this guy isn't done yet. 

His main pitches are fastball (89-93 mph), slider (81–83 mph), changeup (78–82 mph) but has also shown some success throwing a curveball when needed (.220 average against righties over career).

9. J. P. Arencibia


J. P. Arencibia

J. P. Arencibia was born on January 5, 1986 in Miami, Florida and is a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. He made his MLB debut in 2007 with the New York Mets and has since played for the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Blue Jays and now Toronto again.

In 2011 he won silver medals with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic tournament and also hit .297 that year with 22 home runs in 125 games played. 

He is married to Liza Gaudette who he met while playing baseball together in Canada (they were both members of the Montreal Expos organization).

They have two children; daughter Harper Rose Arencibia-Gaudette (born July 21st 2013) and son Jaxon Reese Arencibia (born November 16th 2015). JPA currently plays for Torontos affiliate Buffalo Bisons where he has been batting .251 this season.

Also Played For: tennessee volunteers baseball

10. Brady Williams

Brady Williams

Brady Williams is a former professional baseball player who played for the Tampa Bay Rays and Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. He attended Purdue University, where he played college baseball for the Boilermakers.

Williams was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 6th round of the 2001 MLB draft, but never reached the major leagues. In 2006, he signed with the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays and spent two seasons there before joining the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 as their minor league coach.

On October 1, 2016 Brady became manager of Durham Bulls Athletic Park after being named interim manager following John Frascatore's dismissal earlier that month.. Brady Williams is a coaching intern for the Tampa Bay Rays. Brady Williams grew up playing baseball and basketball in Utah.

In his time as an intern, he has helped the team with batting practice drills, throwing instruction, and game planning. Williams was drafted by the Rays in 2018 out of Brigham Young University where he played both baseball and basketball professionally overseas before coming to college early to play ball at BYU.

He made his professional debut with Team Israel during the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers where he finished second on Israel's roster in home runs (6) and RBIs (13). In 2019, Brady led all NCAA Division I players in slugging percentage (.620), OPS (.987), hits (130), doubles (36), triples (7), walks (57) and total bases (+230).

After winning a Gold Glove award as an outfielder at BYU while also being named All-American twice, Brady was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2018 who assigned him to their Rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate that year but called him up later that season due to injuries suffered by other outfielders on the active roster.

11. Tyler Zombro

Tyler Zombro

Tyler Zombro is a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries have kept him from pitching in over a year, but he's hoping to get back on the field soon and help his team win games.

Tyler was drafted by the Rays in 2014 out of college and made his professional debut shortly after that season. He has since pitched in over 100 games, with a 3-5 record and an ERA under 2.0 most of those times.

His injury happened during Spring Training in 2021 when he was hit by a pitch while trying to catch it as it crossed home plate. The impact led to torn ligaments in his ankle, which ended up requiring surgery and keeping him sidelined for close to 12 months.

When he finally returned, Tyler found himself working primarily out of the bullpen where he had some success (including one save). 

However, injuries again forced him off the mound later this year and into rehab once more - though there's no telling how long that will take or if/when he'll be able to return to baseball once again.

12. Cooper Criswell

Cooper Criswell

Cooper Criswell is a 26-year-old pitcher currently playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. He was drafted out of high school by the Rays in 2016 and made his debut that year.

Criswell has an impressive record to date, with a 31-25 record and 3.11 ERA in 72 games played. His best season came in 2018 when he went 14-8 with a 3.27 ERA in 28 starts (206 innings).

Criswell's main strength lies within his ability to get strikeouts, as he ranks 2nd on the team with 269 Ks over 158 career innings pitched (an average of 19 K/9).

While Criswell does have some weaknesses - including giving up home runs at a rate above league average - he has shown himself to be capable of winning games despite not having pinpoint control or overpowering stuff.

With two years remaining on his contract, there is hope that Cooper Criswell can continue developing into one of the top pitchers in baseball.

13. Aaron Slegers


Aaron Slegers

Aaron Slegers is a 30-year-old righty pitcher with the Rays. He played college ball at San Diego State and debuted in MLB with Tampa Bay in 2016. 

In 2018, he was traded to Detroit where he made 19 starts and had a 3.16 ERA before being traded again to the Rays in 2019.

Aaron Slegers has averaged 190 innings pitched per season over his career thus far, striking out roughly 10 batters per nine innings while walking just under three hitters per nine frames en route to posting an impressive 478 strikeouts across 681 total innings pitched (over 7 full seasons).

Despite his success on the mound, Aaron Slegers values having fun off of it and enjoys spending time with family and friends outside of baseball season as well - something that can be seen through some great photos on Instagram which have amassed over 1 million followers.

14. Jamie Arnold

Arnold made his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 1999. He pitched for five teams over a ten-year career, including three seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Arnold had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in 2013 and retired from playing that year.

He has since worked as a pitching coach for various organizations and was named interim head coach of the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the independent Atlantic League in 2018. In September of 2018 he became the new manager of the Tigres de la Liga team located in his home country, Mexico.

Jamie Arnold was a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 2000. He had a record of 2-7 with an ERA of 5.73 and 42 strikeouts in 62 games. Injuries caused him to end his career after just one year in the majors, but he still holds several records for relief pitchers.

15. Adam Kolarek


Adam Kolarek Career

  • World Series champion (2020)

Kolarek was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of Towson University. Kolarek made his major league debut with Tampa Bay in 2017 and has since pitched for the Dodgers, Mariners, Phillies, A's and Rays.

Adam is known for his strikeouts (he currently has 251 on the season) and groundball percentage (currently at 55%). Kolarek will likely be a free agent after this season. 

Kolarek is a pitcher with the Tampa Bay Rays. He has played in two World Series and was part of the team that won in 2020.

Adam Kolarek attended Vanderbilt University where he starred on the baseball team and was named to several All-America teams. Kolarek made his big league debut with Tampa Bay in 2017 and had an impressive rookie season, posting a 3.77 ERA while striking out 94 batters over 117 innings pitched.

In 2018, Kolarek had another good year as he posted a 2.98 ERA and struck out 131 batters over 153 innings pitched (including postseason). ERA rose slightly to 3.77 overall for the year.

16. Ryan Boldt

Ryan Boldt

Ryan Boldt is an outfielder who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He made his major league debut with the Tigers in 2016 and has since played for the Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox, and Baltimore Orioles.

Boldt has a career batting average of .248 with 49 home runs and 221 RBIs over 553 games played. His best season came in 2017 when he hit 23 home runs and drove in 88 RBIs while playing for the Twins. 

Boldt became a free agent at the end of 2018 after spending four seasons with various teams throughout baseball.

He is currently unsigned but may be looking to return to play shortstop or center field next season instead of moving back to left field where he excels most offensively. 

Ryan Boldt is a Baseball player who represented the United States at the 18U Baseball World Championship in Seoul, Korea. He was born on May 15th, 1997 in Wichita Falls, Texas and currently attends Wichita Falls West High School where he plays for the varsity baseball team.

Boldt has previously played for Team USA in various age groups including under-14s, under-16s and under-18s before being named to the national roster for this year's competition. In total Boldt has hit.

341 with 24 doubles, 3 triples and 10 home runs in his career so far which demonstrates his power as well as batting average skillset. 

As a pitcher Ryan Boldt has also shown great potential by posting a 2–1 record with 11 strikeouts over 13 innings of work thus far this season playing alongside senior starter Logan Boyd on West HS' varsity squad.

17. Rick Knapp

Rick Knapp is a former professional baseball pitcher. He played in MLB for the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. After his playing career ended, Rick Knapp became a pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays.

He has helped guide the team to three straight AL East championships and an appearance in the 2017 World Series. Rick Knapp is known for his innovative teaching methods and work ethic on behalf of his players. Rick Knapp is a well-known pitching coach in the game of baseball.

He previously served as the Tigers' pitching coach from 2008 until midway through the 2011 season. In that time, he helped guide Detroit to two playoff appearances and one World Series berth. 

After leaving the Tigers, Knapp joined the Boston Red Sox coaching staff under new manager John Farrell in 2012.

However, after just one year with Boston, he was let go and subsequently became an assistant hitting coach for Seattle Mariners under new manager Scott Servais in 2017. 

Finally, this past offseason Rick rejoined former Tiger teammate Brad Ausmus as his bench coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization.

18. Crash Davis

Crash Davis Career

  • Inspiration for character of the same name played by Kevin Costner in the film Bull Durham

Crash Davis was a second baseman who played in the Major Leagues for nearly 50 years. He started his career with the Philadelphia Athletics and later played for the Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, Baltimore Orioles, St.

Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. Crash Davis is best known for his memorable role as Bud White's sidekick in the film "The Big Lebowski". Crash Davis passed away at age 82 after a long illness. Crash Davis is known for being one of the most tenacious players in baseball.

He was not afraid to get dirty and worked hard every day at the ballpark. Crash had a very unique batting stance that made him incredibly difficult to hit by pitchers. 

Despite his poor batting average, Crash still managed to be a valuable part of many teams over the years due to his hustle and determination on the field.

Crash retired from playing professional baseball after the 1942 season and went on to have a successful career in business afterwards. 

The character Crash Davis in Bull Durham is based off of Crash himself, so it is safe to say that he has been greatly appreciated throughout history. In recent years, Crash has become popular among fans again for his appearances as an analyst on MLB Network broadcasts.

19. Tommy Romero

Tommy Romero

Tommy Romero was born on July 8, 1997 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a pitcher for the Washington Nationals and has been playing professionally since 2016.

Tommy's best season statistically came in 2018 when he posted a 3-3 record with a 2.21 ERA in 16 games (15 starts). Tommy has struggled this year however, posting an 0-5 record and a 5.79 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts).

Romero is considered to be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and could potentially help lead the Washington Nationals to success down the road Tommy Romero was drafted in the 6th round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tommy Romero made his major league debut on April 12, 2022 for the Tampa Bay Rays. Tommy Romero had a win-loss record of 1-1 with an earned run average of 10.80 and 7 strikeouts.

In his first season in the majors. In 2021, Tommy Romero played for Washington Nationals where he had a 0-0 record with an ERA of 2.25 and struck out 3 batters in 5 innings pitched.

20. Scott Strickland

Scott Strickland

Scott Strickland is a relief pitcher who has been in the MLB for 11 years. He was drafted by the Marlins in the 4th round of the 1996 amateur draft and made his MLB debut with them in 2001.

Strickland has spent most of his time with Florida, where he's had an excellent record as a reliever - posting a 2.02 ERA over 267 appearances and 607 innings pitched. 

In 2008, he helped lead Florida to their first World Series title since 1997, finishing off games in relief during both the NLCS and Championship series against Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (who would go on to win three Cy Young Awards).

After Miami failed to re-sign him following that season, Strickland signed with Arizona for 2011 but struggled badly there before being released at the end of March 2012.

He then signed with Houston just days later and has been one of their key relievers ever since - recording 3 saves this year alone so far.

Final Words

Durham Bulls have had a long and proud history, dating back to the early 1900s. They are known for their passionate fan base and are one of the most successful Minor League Baseball teams in terms of championships.

Some of the best players Durham Bulls have ever had include Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr., David Wright and Jimmy Rollins.

Photo of author

John Means

John Means is a professional baseball player who has played in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics. He made his major league debut with the Royals in 2009. He was traded to the Athletics in 2012. Baseball is his favorite sport. His passion about the game is evident in his play. Now he write blogs about baseball and other things whenever he has some free time. LinkedIn

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