If you are a Tampa Bay Rays fan watching the 2015 Home Run Derby, it would be difficult not to think of Evan Longoria. If it wasn’t enough that he hasn’t hit for a lot of power this season while three third basemen (Todd Frazier, Josh Donaldson, and Kris Bryant) participated in the Derby, his name has been explicitly mentioned twice in the ESPN broadcast. First he was talked about because Bryant and Joc Pederson were becoming the first rookies to participate in the Home Run Derby since Longoria, and then because Bryant beat his record for the least number of days between his initial MLB call-up and his first All-Star appearance.
So far in 2015, Longoria has looked better than he did last year, hitting to a .276/.350/.414 line. He has improved his batting average, slugging percentage, and slugging percentage over his overall numbers last season (.253/.320/.404) and where he was at the All-Star Break in 2014 (.257/.333/.386). Even so, Longoria has plenty of work to do in the power department to get back to his career norms. Longoria’s career average is .271 while his OBP is .351, but his .487 career slugging percentage is far above his .414 mark this season.
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Longoria’s 9 home runs in the first half of 2015 are his fewest of his entire career other than 2012, when he played in just 23 games because of injury. Even in 2011, when he missed a month and only played in 61 games, he had 11, and he matched that total in 2014. On the other hand, we can also say that he hasn’t got into one of the crazy homer streaks that he gets every season. In each year of his career, Longoria has hit at least 5 home runs in 2 different months–he hasn’t done that once yet. If those days are coming, though, suddenly his home runs will get into a more manageable range.
Beyond the home runs, though, it is great to see Longoria improving in the other facets of his game even if he won’t be the same home run hitter. His 74-35 strikeout to walk ratio (2.11-to-1) is markedly better than his 133-57 mark last year (2.33) and even 2013 (2.31). He has also regained his Gold Glove form defensively, going from a -5 DRS and a -0.3 UZR last year to a +6 DRS and a 5.2 UZR in 2015. Overall, Longoria has been worth 2.6 WAR according to Baseball-Reference and 2.7 per Fangraphs in the first half after being worth just 3.3 and 3.5 respectively all of last season. He has gone from solid back into the range of well above-average, although Rays fans would like to see him be ever better that that.
Hopefully the home runs will come for Evan Longoria, but at the very least, he has looked better than he did in 2014 and looks primed to have several more good years as the Tampa Bay Rays’ third baseman. We are still waiting for his second and third gears to surface more often, but Longoria met expectations in the first half and will hope to begin exceeding them following the All-Star Break.