There are quite a few players within our fantasy baseball game whose name brand value affects their cost on draft day. Seasoned vets with elite fantasy seasons on their past resumes usually cost more than their less heralded counterparts. One key to fantasy baseball success is to ensure that you invest premium picks on players who are primed to produce elite numbers today. You should strive to avoid paying for players whose name value is worth more than their actual production.
Evan Longoria is one of these players. He is an excellent real life player and has had much to do with the Rays success in the brutal AL East. The trouble is that he will likely cost a top 24 pick in next season’s draft. Is he worth that much to your fantasy team?
Here are blind fantasy lines for 4 players from 2013:
Player A: .301, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 89 R, 5 SB, Y! rank: 31
Player B: .269, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 91 R, 1 SB, Y! rank: 52
Player C: .275, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 84 R, 6 SB, Y! rank: 60
Player D: .260, 22 HR, 69 RBI, 79 R, 9 SB, Y! rank: 107
If you guessed that player B is Longoria, you are correct. Player C is Ryan Zimmerman, who was usually drafted an average of over 20 picks later than Longoria last season. Players A and D were Josh Donaldson and Kyle Seager respectively. Both these guys were well outside of the top 12 3Bs during draft season. Donaldson was entirely off the mixed league radar. For the record, I would draft Longoria before any of these other guys next season, but is it worth the substantial price difference that you would have to pay? I am not so sure.
What is Driving the Price Tag for Longoria?
Longoria hit the ground running during his rookie season crushing 27 HRs and driving in 88 over 122 games. In 2009 and 2010, his production was worthy of first round draft status as he was able to increase his BA both seasons and provide healthy SB totals to go along with the other goodies. When drafting Longoria today, you are essentially paying a tax because some owners believe he will return to the elite form he displayed in 2009 and 2010.
In 2011, things changed for Evan Almighty. He sustained an oblique injury during the first week of play and really struggled to regain his form after returning from the DL. While the power numbers were still there (31 bombs), Longoria virtually stopped running. After swiping a career high 15 bags in 2010, he only stole 3 in 2011. In fact, since the start of 2011, Longoria has totaled 6 SBs in 3 seasons. Longoria was also a victim of extremely poor batted ball luck in 2011 as he saw his average plummet to .244, despite a career low K rate.
Injury struck again in 2012. Longo’s production was elite when he was in the line-up, but he only appeared in 74 games. Despite a substantial increase in his K rate from the prior season, Longo saw his average climb all the way back to .289. The 17 long balls he smashed in those limited ABs made him a high risk, high reward player to target early in round 2 during most 2013 drafts.
What Led to Longoria’s Disappointing 2013?
It is easy to look at 2012 and blame injury. Likewise, injuries and extremely poor batted ball luck hurt him in 2011. What about 2013?
Longoria appeared in 160 games this past season and put up solid numbers. He is ranked at 52 overall in the Y! 5×5 player rater and had the 6th best season among 3B eligible players. Owners could have done much worse with their second round picks, but they didn’t get a great value either. 3B is not the type of talent scarce position where owners can be happy with that level of production from a top 20 selection. For perspective, there were 12 3B eligible players who finished inside the top 100 overall in 5×5 value.
Recent data suggests that Longoria is not as feared by pitchers as he once was. His 2013 OBP equaled a career low set during his rookie season. Along with that, his BB rate was slightly lower and his K rate was up substantially from prior seasons. After watching his K rate fall 3 straight years through 2011, he was back to 23.4% this season, which is approximately the same as his rookie season.
Equally alarming is that his 2013 BABIP was actually higher than his career average mark despite a relatively low line drive rate and a relatively high fly ball rate. The combination of all of these numbers might suggest that Longoria was somewhat lucky to bat .269 this year.
Longoria vs. Zimmerman
If we subtract out his rookie season and look at an average year for Evan Longoria, the results might surprise you. Keep in mind, during that time, he had 2 out of 5 seasons where he produced at an elite level. We will count his 2 injury plagued seasons since injuries have a huge impact on fantasy production. Here is his “average” year:
.275, 27 HR, 91.8 RBI, 80.8 R, and 6 SB
In contrast, look at Ryan Zimmerman’s average year through 8 seasons. Zimmerman has had similar injury issues and is significantly more affordable on draft day.
.286, 22.4 HR, 83.25 RBI, 82.25 R, and 4.5 SB
When you consider that Zimmerman is actually trending up in the SB category while Longoria’s running game is becoming more non-existent, I have a hard time seeing the difference between these two players. Sure, you will get a couple more HRs for Longoria, but is this worth a 2 round price tag difference?
When you factor in the K rate that seems to be heading in the wrong direction and the injury history, Evan Longoria is a player that is more likely to bust than hit in the second round. If you play amongst savvy owners and he falls outside the top 30 during your draft (unlikely), the value starts to look a lot better. Bottom line though, Longoria looks like a player who needs to be drafted in the low thirties rather than the mid-teens in re-draft formats. I will happily spend my second round pick on a second tier 1B or OF option and let others chase the myth of the scarce 3B position. Pay for the numbers, not the name.