March 27, 2008
This Longoria issue is obviously the most disturbing. He's posted a .407 OBP and .595 slugging percentage this spring, so there's not much evidence to suggest that he can't immediately be productive. Longoria would almost certainly be more useful than the Rays' presumptive starter at third, the injured Willy Aybar.
Check the Rotowire note on Longoria's player page right now. The money quote is offered by Jonny Gomes:
"If I say I commit to winning, (Longoria) is on my team for sure."
The same is true in fantasy leagues. If you're interested in winning beyond April, find a bench spot for Longoria. His percent-ownership is plummeting -- this tends to happen when a player is reassigned to Triple-A -- and he's become a fixture on my "Roster Alerts" tab:
"Evan Longoria has been dropped by 3966 teams in Yahoo! leagues."
Each day it's the same thing. Only the number changes. But sometimes a massive selloff creates buying opportunities, and this feels like one of those times.
Longoria wasn't returned to the minors over any obvious readiness issue. In addition to the promising spring, he hit .299/.402/.520 in 485 AB in the high minors last season, at age 21. The Rays are saying publicly that the move is about development. Everyone else is pointing out that by further developing Longoria, even for a few weeks, the Rays can delay his eligibility for free agency.
Maybe that's not worst organizational decision, but it's inconvenient for fantasy purposes.
The bottom line is that Longoria remains an excellent hitter and a top-tier prospect, according to pretty much everyone. (Here's Baseball America's take, here's Baseball Prospectus, and here's John Sickels). Unlike Jay Bruce, another guy I'd be willing to stash on a fantasy bench, there's not a pileup of veterans blocking Longoria. He's a high-ceiling player who will be useful for fantasy purposes at some point, and probably very soon.
Could he fail? Could he be the 2007 version of Alex Gordon without the 14 steals?
Sure, of course. Even the can't-miss prospects miss. But in a mixed league, there's not going to be any shortage of available third basemen who can deliver league-average (or better) stats. Just scan the composite position ranks. It's a position where the penalty for reaching isn't too severe.
In head-to-head leagues, where the final month of the season is substantially more important than the first month, Longoria really needs to be owned. He'll certainly be up at the end of the year. The Rays have exactly one scheduled off-day in September, and they don't have any from September 15 through September 28. That's championship week in the head-to-head playoffs.