Latest in a series of scouting reports provided to SI.com by the network of former scouts, players, coaches and executives at the Baseline Group. Today's report looks at the newly named American League Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Third Base
Body Type: Strong, athletic build
Elite: top player at his position (Alex Rodriguez)
Premium: top five at his position (Miguel Cabrera)
Good: top 10 at his position; occasional All-Star (Aramis Ramirez)
Average: everyday position player (Adrian Beltre)
Key role: part-time or platoon player (Blake DeWitt)
Evan Longoria is a special player, and he has all the plus tools to be one of the Majors' best third basemen for years to come. He started the 2008 season as a highly-touted prospect in the minor leagues ended it batting cleanup for the Rays in the World Series -- and with an American League Rookie of the Year Award.
On both sides of the ball Longoria plays well beyond what can be expected for his age. With his natural abilities, work ethic and attitude, Longoria has already become a team leader for Tampa Bay.
• Has above average tools in Speed, Power, Range, Arm and Glove
• Shows maturity beyond his years
• Runs well (4.25 to 4.45 to first base) and is improving as a base runner. In three professional seasons he is 15-17 in steals, including 8-8 for the Rays in 2008.
• High strikeout rate (122 in 448 at bats)
• Lack of experience. Longoria has all the skills to be a premium level player, but he doesn't yet have the number of games under his belt to be classified as such. Pitchers will be making adjustments in their game plan against Longoria for 2009, and we'll need to see how he responds.
Longoria starts in a tall, slightly open stance. He has a quiet approach that lets him take full advantage of his great hands. He gets his front food down early, creating an even stance. After getting his foot down, he has a couple of different techniques he uses depending on what pitch he's looking for. When he's looking for something on the inner-half of the plate, he will stay tall and keep more of his weight on his backside. This approach allows him to keep his swing short, which lets him get the bat barrel to the ball while keeping his hands inside the ball. When looking for something on the outer half, he will lean slightly over the plate and drift forward with his upper body.
Longoria does a good job of keeping his hands back with both approaches. He has a short, slightly upper-cut swing. He stays taller and quieter with his body when facing right-handed pitchers, which allows his hands to work more efficiently. When facing left-handed pitchers, he struggles to keep his weight back and let pitches come to him. His aggression works against him. At times, he will have excess movement in his approach, which prevents his hands from working well and creates holes in his swing.
Longoria is an above average third baseman who doesn't have any defensive weaknesses. He reads the ball off of the bat well, has plus-range, soft hands and an excellent arm that is very accurate. He is very athletic and not afraid to dive.
Longoria likes the ball up in the zone, but he does a lot of damage versus the ball down because of his long swing. There are many things that can cause a player to have a long swing, and in Longoria's case it was his inability to stick with one batting style. During the playoffs and World Series he was changing everything from his stride to the width of his stance. He even took a day off from hitting. He'll improve his focus and consistency as he matures.
In 2009 pitchers will likely try to get Longoria out with pitches down and away, but that will be a mistake because he can handle those pitches. He simply had a bunch of trouble during the World Series, resulting from inconsistency -- not any fundamental weakness.
The best way to pitch Longoria is with a hard tailing fastball from a right-handed pitcher on the inside of the plate or running inside off the plate to set up something down and away.