There was a time, however brief, that Evan Longoria was viewed as the top third baseman in the game. The presence of Jose Bautista has definitely changed that recently, though 2012 may be the final year that he has eligibility at the position (thanks to Brett Lawrie joining the Blue Jays).
Recent struggles also haven’t done fantasy owners any favors in valuing Longoria. It’s not that he’s had bad seasons in general, but there have been different issues each of the past two seasons. In 2010, His power fell off and he hit just 22 home runs. In 2011, his average plummeted to just .244.
Given those issues, it is hard to imagine that he would still be under consideration for the first round, wouldn’t it? However, I wouldn’t be so quick to write him off for the final few picks of the opening round. Let’s take a look at why.
.244 (118-483), 31 HR, 99 RBI, 78 R, 3 SB
The Case For Him
There have been issues the past few seasons, but they can all be written off. The power dropoff from 2010? He still had a ton of extra base hits in 2009 (46 doubles and five triples) and he obviously came back strong in 2011.
Just look at his HR/FB numbers for his career and tell me which one doesn’t belong:
- 2008 – 19.4 percent
- 2009 – 17.6 percent
- 2010 – 11.1 percent
- 2011 – 17.6 percent
There is no reason to think that he is not going to be a 30-plus HR hitter once again, especially considering he achieved that feat in just 483 AB (133 games), last season.
As for last year’s average problems, while he may have been swinging for the fences a little bit more (44.7 percent fly ball rate compared to a 42.8 percent career mark), the culprit was clearly his BABIP.
After posting marks above .300 in his first three years in the majors, he posted a pathetic .239 mark last season. Does anyone really believe in that number? It was actually tied for the third worst mark in the league, and we have to assume that he’s going to rebound strong.
While the Rays lineup may not be what it once was, they are still going to produce plenty of runs. Last season, they scored 707 runs: right in the middle of the league. Longoria has proven to have 100/100 potential (he achieved it in 2009 and was at 104 RBI and 96 R in 2010).
Last season, there was only one third baseman who had over 100 RBI and over 90 R—Jose Bautista. There were four who had over 90 RBI and over 80 R—Bautista, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Aramis Ramirez.
In other words, assuming Longoria can get back to his proven levels, he provides a major advantage over the rest of the field.
The Case Against Him
Obviously if you are selecting Longoria you are doing so—at least partially—due to position scarcity. It’s not that the potential numbers are not impressive, but is he going to outperform someone like Prince Fielder (who likely isn’t even a consideration in the first round)? What about someone like Andrew McCutchen, who also offers speed?
Sure, Longoria stole 15 bases in 2010, but that’s clearly not the norm. He only had three stolen bases last season and only had eight SB over his minor league career. From a first-round pick, don’t you want someone who is going to help you across the board?
There also is a little bit of risk involved, considering the issues he’s had the past two years. As the old saying goes, you can’t win your league in the first-round but you definitely can lose it.
Why take a risk when you don’t necessarily have to?
While he has had his issues the past two seasons and doesn’t offer much speed, that isn’t enough to dissuade me. Longoria is far from a lock to be selected in the first round, but depending on how things fall, I would at least consider him at the very end of the round (he is a lock to go in the first few picks of the second round). I figure picks 10-12 would make sense, depending on the format and who is selected ahead of him.
There is just too much to like about Longoria at this point, and the issues that he’s had are easily explained away.
As we head into 2012, I don’t see any reason not to expect him to hit .280-plus with 30-plus HR, 100-plus RBI and 90-plus R. Considering those numbers come from one of the shallowest positions in the game, they are too appealing to ignore.
What are your thoughts of Longoria? Is he a player you would consider picking in the first round? Why or why not?