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Key Stats: Last year, Evan Longoria hit 22 home runs, scored 96 runs and knocked in 104 RBI. The home run total was down by 9 from the previous year, but runs (100 in 2009) and RBI (113 in 2009) did not see as big of a dip. Longoria made up for the decline in these categories by stealing 15 bags and upping his batting average to .294, both career highs. The increase in steals was fairly efficient — he was successful 75% of the time. Since he didn’t hurt his team by being aggressive, it’s likely he’ll reach double digits in SB again this year.

Still, despite these improvements and SB in AVG, the 11 HR decline is worrisome. These fears can be alleviated by looking at Longoria’s peripheral stats. Longoria definitely has a strong approach to the plate — his K rate has gone down every year while his walk rate has gone up. His Line Drive % last year was the best of his career, and his ground balls were down while his fly balls were up. The main issue is the decline in HR/FB, which fell by more than 6%. An increase in LD%, AVG, OBP, and doubles means Longoria is still an overall elite offensive third baseman. A drop in HR/FB could be a fluke, or it could indicate Longoria has decided for a more well-rounded approach (high AVG) instead of going for a power approach. Either way, he is very productive and the consistent success he’s shown at such a young age (he’s entering his 4th season at age 25) makes him one of the most valuable players in fantasy and real baseball. It’s probably just a matter of time before we don’t even have to choose between the power approach or the batting average — he’s got the talent to succeed at hitting for average and for power in the same season.

Skeptics Say: There’s no reason to believe Longoria’s power numbers will come back, especially if he prefers a plate approach more preferable to batting average (as demonstrated in 2010). Moreover, his team stats will continue to decline with the departure of several anchors of Tampa Bay’s lineup. Carl Crawford will no longer set the table for the Rays, and whoever takes his place won’t get on base at the same clip. This means less opportunities to drive in runs for Longoria. Carlos Peña also left, and although he is no longer the threat he once was, he still drove in 84 runs last year. This might lead to Longoria not scoring as many runs, and could also make it easier for pitchers to avoid giving him any pitches to hit. Replacements Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez will have big shoes to fill for Crawford and Peña and both are old. This all adds up to declines in Longoria’s R, HR, and RBI totals.

Peer Comparison: We’ve done multiple comparisons between top third basemen, including in David Wright’s, Ryan Zimmerman’s, and Alex Rodriguez’s player profiles. Longoria offers something truly unique among these players: He’s already proven he can be one of the best in his position consistently, and he’s got age on his side. At the very least, we can expect Longoria to fight it out with Wright for the title of most productive third baseman over the next five years. More likely, Longoria will continue to refine his approach and improve upon his already elite numbers as he enters his prime.

Given these facts, it’s tough to take any other third baseman over Longoria, especially in keeper leagues. So, I’m going to go ahead and compare Longoria with another elite 25 year-old that offers similar value. He’s young, he’s really good, and he’s also arguably the best at his position — Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez has played only one full year thus far, so let’s look at both players’ 2010 seasons:
  • Longoria: 22 HR, 96 R, 104 RBI, 15 SB, .294 AVG
  • Gonzalez: 34 HR, 111 R, 117 RBI, 26 SB, .336 AVG
Longoria was clearly outclassed in all categories in 2010, but before immediately looking to deal Evan for Carlos straight up in your keeper league, you have to question the sustainability of Gonzalez’s performance. He doesn’t have the track record of Longoria, meaning we don’t know that this is his true talent level or if he can stay on the field consistently to put up these kinds of numbers every year. As we saw with Longoria’s decline in several categories in 2009, posting nasty offensive numbers quickly is very difficult to do consistently. Gonzalez can easily fall victim to the same kinds of ups and downs as pitchers adjust to him, his BABIP comes down, and his propensity to strike out catches up to him.

When criticizing either player, you’re really nitpicking. I’d probably prefer securing an elite third baseman over an elite outfielder, but the potential for consistent five-category domination for the next few years is hard to pass up from the Rockies outfielder.

Lineup Outlook: This is a definite worry for Longoria’s team-oriented stats (runs and RBI), as mentioned in the Skeptics Say portion of this profile above. Johnny Damon should be a serviceable replacement to Carl Crawford in terms of getting on base considering they posted nearly identical on base numbers in 2010. A real key could be Ben Zobrist. If he is able to bounce back to something between his 2009 and 2010 performances (as most projections seem to suggest), he could be a real boost to Tampa’s lineup and to Longoria’s 2011 season line.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #1 Third Baseman and #4 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #1 Third Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #1 Third Baseman and #5 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #1 Third Baseman and #9 Overall; RotoChamp: #27 Overall; Charlie Saponara: #1 Third Baseman and #4 Overall; Fantasy Newsman: #1 Third Baseman

Projection: Evan Longoria will continue to fight it out with David Wright in a five-category war for the title of best third baseman. Longoria is 3 years younger, has proven he’s slightly better the past two years, and I think is going to rise to the occasion as the Rays’ premiere hitter:

101 runs, 29 HR, 112 RBI, 10 SB, .286 AVG
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    3 Responses to Evan Longoria Player Projection No. 10

    1. Brian@brianautismblog says:

      I think Longo will be fine, back to his HR levels. These things happen, year to year fluctuations. Like, Hanley. He had his down year last year, now he probably will adjust and be back to normal. Tex is another example of probably just a bad year. So, I would expect normal production levels from him.

    2. Schruender says:

      I know it's only spring training, but the way Manny is hitting behind Longo, I'm starting to think that losing Crawford and Pena won't be too bad on him after all. For Manny to be trying as hard as he is in Spring Training is very surprising.

    3. Brian@brianautismblog says:

      I think so too, I think talent wins out in the end. And Manny could be a great DH looking for another few millions. Should be better than Pena. And Crawford always seems overrated with his low OBP, exciting but basically Jose Reyes.

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