Sunday, December 9, 2007

Should Longoria Start At 3B? Two Models The Rays Maybe Looking At

The Rays chose Evan Longoria with the third overall pick in the 2006 MLB draft and he has not disappointed. In his one and half years in the minors he's played his way into being the second ranked prospect by MiLB.COM. Longoria has succeeded at every level he has been at, and with the Rays announcing that Aki will move to second base it seemed obvious that Longoria would be the starter at third base on opening day. What seemed obvious a couple weeks ago is now been a question mark with recent comments made by the Rays and the reporters that cover the Rays.

Most Rays fans believed that when the Rays traded Delmon Young it was ok because his production would be made up by the upgrade of the infield by playing Longoria. Since the trade there have been several articles in the media that have discussed the possibility and probability of Longoria not being the starter at third base. Rays fans are excited by the upgrades that have been made in the off-season by the organization and the evolution of Longoria at third base seems to coincide with that strategy.

While fans look at Longoria as a savior at third base, the Rays organization may be looking at two different models of what to do with franchise third basemen. Last season the top two third base prospects in baseball made their way to the pros. One started the season at third (Alex Gordon), and the other came up after a couple months in AAA(Ryan Braun). Both Gordon and Braun were drafted in the top 5 of the 2005 draft and both spent all of 2006 in the minors. Longoria was drafted in 2006 and spent the rest of 2006 and all of 2007 in the minors. Maybe the Rays looked at the different way Braun and Gordon were handled and have made a decision accordingly.

Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Nebraska and has been one of the top prospects in the game ever since. Royals fans have herald him as the next George Brett and savior of the franchise. He only played one year of minor league ball, and despite the Royals organizations promise that he would not skip AAA ball, he did and made his MLB debut in 2007. While he finished the season with decent numbers, it was a struggle for most of the year.
AA Stats:

486 AB .325/.427/1.015 29 Home Runs
1 K per 4 AB
1 BB per 6.75 AB

MLB Stats

543 AB .247/.314/.725
1 K per 4 AB
1 BB per 13 AB

Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun was picked two spots after Alex Gordon in 2005. Braun, like Gordon, was a college third basemen with a high ceiling. Braun signed early, like Longoria, and was able to play a little bit in 2005. He played all of 2006 in the minor leagues but, unlike Gordon, started the 2007 season in the minors. Braun spent an extra month in AAA and dominated, which forced the Brewers to call him up to the big team. Braun did not disappoint the team after being called up and won the rookie of the year.

AA Stats:

231 AB .303/.367/.956
1 K per 5 AB
1 BB in 11 AB

AAA Stats:

117 AB .342/.418/1.119
1 K per 11 AB
1 BB per 8 AB

MLB Stats:

451 AB .324/.370/1.004
1 K per 4 AB
1 BB per 16 AB

Evan Longoria

The Rays organization have case studies of two players that were almost identical in the draft, but were handled differently by their teams. The Rays have always been careful with their prospects and after comparing Longoria's numbers to these two players they may have made a decision already.

AA Stats:

486 AB .298/.388/.934
1 K pe 5 AB
1 BB per 9 AB

AAA Stats:

104 AB .269/.398/.888
1 K per 4 AB
1 BB per 5 AB

Evan's stats in AA are a little below Gordon's, and his AAA stats are much lower that Braun's. Maybe the Rays noticed the same thing and are hoping that by giving Longoria the extra time next season his season will turn out more like Braun than Gordon. The Rays have made some great moves this season, and fans are ready for the team to compete. Longoria is the future of this team and will hopefully help it competitive for years, but would Rays fans rather have Longoria give them a Gordon type season, or wait a month and give them a Braun performance?