Fantasy Baseball Impact: Giants Acquire Evan Longoria
A few weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants were in the running for both Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton. Obviously neither have worked out but that hasn’t stopped the 64 win Giants team from improving their major league club. On Wednesday the Giants acquired 32 year-old veteran third baseman Evan Longoria for veteran outfielder Denard Span and three prospects including: infielder Christian Arroyo and two pitching prospects Matt Kook and Stephen Woods. Arroyo was the organization’s number one prospect and is the centerpiece of the deal. He can field the position at shortstop but is likely better suited defensively at third base, however, his offensive profile doesn’t project as a power hitting third baseman. He’s a high contact, line drive hitter with little power and speed. His 34 game cameo in 2017 with the big club left something to be desired. He should not be on the fantasy radar for 2018 but could develop into a .300-15 HR type of player in the future, especially if the Rays stick him at short. Neither Woods nor Krock have thrown a pitch above High-A ball and are nowhere near the top 100 prospects. Krock has better stuff with potentially three plus pitches but his walk rates make him several years away from the majors. Neither are fantasy relevant in 2018 if at all.
Longoria will be 32 years old in 2018 but it seems like he’s been around forever and he kind of has been; 2018 will be his 11th year in the big leagues. First let’s look at how good Longoria was to start his career. Here’s a list of the top WAR earners for 3B through age 27 since 1980:
|Player||WAR through Age-27|
That’s an impressive list to say the least. There’s anywhere from two to four future Hall of Famers on this list. What’s more, he was second in all of Major League Baseball in WAR from 2008 through 2011 behind only Albert Pujols. Things have changed however as they usually do for aging stars, but Longoria seemed to start his decline at about age 29 when most players are still at their peaks. In 2014, Longoria across the board saw significant performance reductions offensively and defensively; power began to diminish and plate discipline seemed to have deteriorated. His once extremely team friendly 10-year $135 million deal could now be under water as early as 2019.
To find out what has happened to Longoria, one can’t simply point to injuries as he’s played over 155 games per year since 2013. A nagging injury here or there like the minor thumb injury that held him out of a couple games in 2017 could have sapped some of his power, but I think it’s more than that. Check out his numbers via xStats since 2015. There’s three statistics I want to point out in regards to Longoria’s decline: Exit Velocity (EV), Value Hits (VH%), and Poorly hit balls (PH%). His average exit velocity dropped from an elite 90-91 mph to under 87 mph. Consequently, his value hits basically were cut in half and his poorly hit balls increased by three to four percent. What’s also interesting is that Longoria’s strikeout rate decreased while his chase rate (O-Swing%) increased. He’s making more contact but on balls out of the zone that result in soft contact, aka an easy out. To me it’s part of the aging curve and I don’t expect Longoria to get a whole lot better moving to San Francisco.
Grant Brisbee of the McCovy Cove Chronicles writes about AT&T Park being the only major league stadium that has had its HR/PA decrease since 2014. That’s not good news for Longoria, but let’s take a look at the graphic below showing Longoria’s batted balls (Barrels and solid contact only) since 2015.
It’s not all that bad since AT&T park suppresses home runs to right field more so than left field. I only count a net difference of two to three home runs over the course of three seasons. What concerns me more than the park change is Longoria’s average home run distance of 394 feet in 2017 ranking him in the bottom 40% of the league.
Fantasy Impacts and Giants 2018 Outlook
From the Giants standpoint, I can understand the move. Longoria is still a good defender and is an above average hitter with some power. It’s a clear upgrade over Pablo Sandoval, maybe a net of two or three WAR. The infield for the Giants looks solid and should be one of the best in the NL defensively with Crawford, Panik, and Belt along with Longoria all above average to elite defenders. The outfield needs a lot of work but I anticipate the Giants signing at least one or two outfielders, Jay Bruce being the most likely candidate but Lorenzo Cain would be a better fit. The pitching staff will no doubt be better than 2017 with Ace Madison Bumgarner likely to stay off the dirt bikes to throw 200 IP. A bounce-back from Johnny Cueto along with Jeff Samardzija pitching closer to his peripherals should result in a solid rotation. I’d expect between 80 and 85 wins from this team and a shot at wild card. In regards to Longoria, he’ll help this club but as far as fantasy is concerned, he’s more of a corner infielder or a low end starting 3B in deep leagues. I don’t expect more than .265 AVG, 19-21 HR and 160 Runs+RBI very similar to his 2017 output.