Evan Longoria was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 3rd pick of the 2006 amateur player draft out of Cal-State Long Beach. Rays fans knew as soon as they heard about this kid that he was going to be great.
After spending two years in the minor leagues, Longoria hit a combined .301/.386/.534 with 44 home runs and 144 RBI, all before his 22nd birthday.
Knowing what they had on their hands, with a team that they felt confident with, Andrew Friedman knew that he had to call up Longoria if the team was going to contend.
Within one week of being called up, the Rays locked Longoria up to the longest contract in team history with a nine year $44 million deal.
Clearly the Rays had a lot of confidence in Longoria, as they were not afraid to make this large of a commitment to a player with less than 30 career at-bats . So far, Longoria has already outperformed the contract that he signed.
You may be asking how a player that has played fewer than 400 career games could be considered the best player at his position in the American League; especially with Alex Rodriguez still playing. The answer, however, is fairly simple:
Longoria plays some of the best defensive third base in all of major league baseball. Whether it's ranging far to his right and making a leaping throw across the diamond, or charging a bunt, bare-handing it, and making the out at first, the kid can really do it all.
In his second season, Longoria brought home what many people believe to be his first of many Gold Gloves over his career.
Longoria has already made eight errors this year, his RF/G is at 2.77, which is still above the league average of 2.72. So, while he has made a number of errors, he still gets to more balls than a lot of third basemen in Major League Baseball would get to.
No one is going to mistake Evan Longoria for Chone Figgins, Scott Podsednik, or Carl Crawford, but this kid has some real sneaky speed.
Over his career, Longoria has been successful on 92.8% of his steal attempts (26/28), including ten stolen bases this year.
Right now, Evan is on pace for about 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases. If he is able to maintain this pace, he will be the first third baseman in the American League to complete this feat since Tommy Harper did it for the Milwaukee Brewers back in 1970.
This is the one spot of Longoria's game that I feel is only going to get better over the next few years, which is saying a lot because he had a line of .281/33/114 last year.
Longoria's batting eye has been getting better each year that he has been in professional baseball, because of that he is starting to see which pitches that he can drive, which pitches to lay off, and he is starting to learn when to push the ball instead of always trying to pull it.
Do I think that Longoria is ever going to hit 45 home runs? No, probably not. But, it is certainly not out of reach for him to one day put up .330/39/130, especially if the Rays can keep him surrounded with the talent that they have.
Why did I say that Evan Longoria is just the best third baseman in the American League and not all of baseball? Well, at this point in their careers, I would have to give the edge to Ryan Zimmerman for the best player in baseball. If Longoria reaches the peaks that I set out for him in the next few years, that may sway my opinion.
However, Evan Longoria is the best third baseman in the American League, right now.
Who do you feel deserves this honor right now? Does Alex Rodriguez still hold this, or is there someone else that I may be forgetting?