Diamondbacks Get a Little Higher by Signing Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports activities

The recent nook acquired slightly hotter within the Valley of the Solar final Friday, because the Diamondbacks topped off a busy vacation season with the acquisition of a brand new third baseman. Evan Longoria is heading to Arizona on a one-year, $4 million contract with an extra $1 million in incentives. He figures to play most of his video games at third base, with alternatives to DH as nicely.

These two sides are match for a number of causes, chief amongst them that Longoria merely needed to play in Arizona. Heading into the offseason, he said that he would only consider offers from the Giants, Rays or Diamondbacks (in different phrases, locations he already had houses). It’s doubtless he misplaced some leverage by displaying his hand so early — $4 million is a tad low for a participant who posted 3.0 WAR during the last two seasons — but it surely’s arduous to think about Longoria is shedding any sleep. He will get to play near dwelling (considered one of them, anyway) for a group that may give him an actual alternative to delay his profession. The D-backs aren’t true contenders, but when Longoria performs nicely sufficient, he’ll discover himself in a brand new uniform by the commerce deadline anyway.

Arizona, in the meantime, will probably be stronger with the right-handed Longoria within the fold. Practically all of its high producers final season had been lefties (Daulton Varsho, Josh Rojas, Jake McCarthy, Corbin Carroll, and David Peralta), and nearly two-thirds of the group’s plate appearances went to left-handed hitters:

Most PA by Left-Handed Hitters

Group PA by LHH
ARI 63.7%
PIT 59.5%
NYM 52.0%
TEX 49.5%
SEA 49.2%
DET 47.7%

Unsurprisingly, the D-backs had been dreadful in opposition to southpaws, ending twenty eighth in baseball with an 83 wRC+. By including Longoria (and swapping Varsho for Lourdes Gurriel Jr.), they’ve begun to stability out their lineup. Buying Longoria additionally provides the Diamondbacks a real third baseman, a luxurious they lacked all through the 2022 season. Tremendous-utility man Rojas acquired the majority of the enjoying time at third, showing in 89 video games; for his troubles, Statcast awarded him -6 OAA. He’s higher fitted to second base or the outfield. On the flip facet, Emmanuel Rivera performed a lot better protection, posting 7 OAA in simply 29 video games, however failed to point out the mandatory offensive talents for a beginning function. Longoria represents an improve as a certified candidate on either side of the ball. Even in his mid-thirties, he’s been a reliable third baseman, placing up 1 OAA in 1,123 innings since 2021. In comparison with Rojas, he’ll be a a lot steadier presence on the left facet of the infield.

As for his bat, Longoria nonetheless has loads left to supply at 37 years previous. The veteran has skilled a profession renaissance over the previous two seasons, crushing 27 dwelling runs with a 118 wRC+ in 589 PA. It began with a revamped swing and refined method on the plate in 2021, which helped him get off to his finest begin in eight years. He described his swing changes to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly that April, explaining how the Giants’ teaching workers helped him make some key mechanical adjustments. He elevated his bat pace by swinging a lighter stick and located a method to elevate his launch angle by a number of levels. Thanks to those changes, he felt extra assured, and that, in flip, helped enhance his plate self-discipline.

Longoria demolished the baseball over the primary two months of the 2021 season. He posted the very best hard-hit price within the majors, amongst different equally spectacular numbers. My colleague Jay Jaffe summed it up nicely:

[Longoria’s] 61.3% hard-hit price leads the majors, whereas his 95.9 mph common exit velocity ranks second, his .415 xwOBA places him within the 97th percentile, and his 15.1% barrel price within the 91st percentile. All of these are his highest charges and rankings of the Statcast period…

Longoria has surpassed [all] expectations by adjusting his mechanics and adopting a extra disciplined method on the plate. He’s swung at simply 41.7% of all pitches, down from a excessive of 49.8% in 2017, his ultimate yr in Tampa Bay, and from 45% final yr, and has reduce his chase price to 22.5%, down from a excessive of 34.9.% in ’17, and from 29.7% final yr. With that, he’s strolling at a 13.4% clip, up from final yr’s 5.3% and his first time in double digits since 2010.

Sadly, a sternoclavicular dislocation in early June stopped Longoria in his tracks, and he sat on the injured record for the following two months. Though the harm was to his non-dominant shoulder, it appeared to have a extreme impression on his swing; when Longoria returned in August, his exit velocity and hard-hit price dropped considerably, and his offensive manufacturing plummeted in accordance:

Evan Longoria’s 2021

Timeframe PA wRC+ HardHit% Barrel% Avg. EV
Apr-Jun 186 139 61.3% 15.1% 95.9
Aug-Oct 105 91 42.6% 10.3% 91.1

Though that drop in wRC+ seems to be scary, the reality is that Longoria was nonetheless hitting the ball nicely from August to October — simply not fairly in addition to earlier than. His second-half hard-hit price would have ranked within the 62nd percentile for the 2021 season, his barrel price would have ranked within the 67th, and his common exit velocity the 82nd. What’s extra, he continued to enhance his high quality of contact all through the 2022 season; had he certified, he would have ranked within the 84th percentile or above in all three of these metrics. He might by no means recapture his success from early 2021, besides, he seems to be like a much better hitter than he was throughout his first three years in San Francisco:

Evan Longoria’s Giants Profession

Timeframe PA wRC+ HardHit% Barrel% Avg. EV
2018-2020 1229 93 39.9% 7.7% 89.6
Apr-Jun 2021 186 139 61.3% 15.1% 95.9
Aug. 2021 Onwards 403 109 45.7% 11.8% 91.1

Since coming back from his shoulder harm, Longoria has the hard-hit price of Pete Alonso, the barrel price of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and the common exit velocity of Paul Goldschmidt. If you happen to gave me these three comps and nothing else to go on, I’d need to presume you had been speaking about among the finest hitters within the recreation. Certainly, out of 274 hitters with at the least 400 PA in that point, solely 23 had a better barrel price, hard-hit price, and common exit velocity than Longoria. Crushing the ball isn’t every thing, but it surely means loads; hard-hit balls had a .607 wOBA in 2022, and barrels had a 1.289 wOBA. As for batted balls that had been neither hard-hit nor barrelled? They’d a meager wOBA of .208.

Nobody expects Longoria to carry out on the identical stage as Alonso, Guerrero, or Goldschmidt in 2023. As spectacular as his batted ball stats are, he nonetheless has some main limitations. For one factor, his strikeout price skyrocketed in 2022, and the self-control he as soon as displayed has largely disappeared. In 2021, glorious plate self-discipline was important to Longoria’s turnaround; he was extra selective together with his swings and chased far much less at pitches outdoors the zone. Consequently, his stroll price rose to its highest level in years. He maintained that very same method in August when he returned from the IL, and though he wasn’t drawing fairly as many free passes, his stroll price remained larger than it had been in years:

Evan Longoria Plate Self-discipline

Timeframe Chase Price Swing Price Stroll Price Strikeout Price
2018-2020 32.3% 47.2% 6.2% 20.5%
Apr-Jun 22.5% 41.7% 13.4% 22.6%
Aug-Oct 22.4% 43.6% 9.5% 24.8%

In 2022, nonetheless, Longoria’s unhealthy swing choices got here again in full drive, as he swung at almost 30% of pitches outdoors the zone. To be truthful, that’s nonetheless higher than common, however not by a lot, and it represented a giant step backward for the veteran. He completed the 2022 season with the very best strikeout price of his profession:

Evan Longoria Plate Self-discipline 2022

Timeframe Chase Price Swing Price Stroll Price Strikeout Price
2022 29.5% 44.4% 9.1% 27.9%

Fortunately for Longoria, the strikeouts weren’t deadly. Certain, he would have been a greater participant with a extra disciplined method, however he nonetheless hit nicely and stored his stroll price up. The strikeouts had been simply a part of the bundle. That being stated, if his plate self-discipline continues to worsen, he’s in for a impolite awakening. It’s attainable to be a productive hitter with a strikeout price north of 28%, but it surely isn’t straightforward. Out of 130 certified hitters in 2022, solely 5 had a strikeout price that top and a wRC+ above 100.

One other factor to control is Longoria’s manufacturing in opposition to right-handed pitching. He’s at all times been higher in opposition to southpaws, however in his prime, he was extremely efficient in opposition to all pitchers. As a Ray, he posted a 134 wRC+ in opposition to lefties and a 119 wRC+ in opposition to righties. After he joined the Giants, nonetheless, his platoon splits began to develop into extra of an issue. From 2018 to ’20, he posted an 84 wRC+ versus righties and developed a fame because the weak facet of a platoon. Even throughout his sizzling streak in early 2021, he was hardly higher than common in opposition to right-handers.

All that being stated, I feel it’s too early to put in writing Longoria off as a contributor in opposition to same-handed pitching. Since he returned from his lengthy IL stint, his batted ball stats in opposition to righties are almost as spectacular as they’re in opposition to southpaws:

Evan Longoria Splits (since Aug. 2021)

Pitcher PA wRC+ HardHit% Barrel% Avg. EV
RHP 247 101 43.3% 11.3% 90.8
LHP 156 120 49.0% 12.5% 91.6

In 149 PA in opposition to RHP in 2022, Longoria hit for a 107 wRC+ regardless of a .266 BABIP. Eight of his 14 dwelling runs got here with out the platoon benefit, and his 10.1% stroll price in opposition to righties was excellent. He even had a 90 wRC+ in opposition to same-handed pitching after getting behind within the depend (league common for all gamers was 74). It’s true that Gabe Kapler restricted Longoria’s enjoying time in opposition to right-handers, however he was glorious within the alternatives he acquired. He might have to take a seat in opposition to harder righties, particularly these with nasty sliders, however it might be a mistake for Torey Lovullo to start out him solely in opposition to southpaws.

And talking of sitting, the ultimate space for concern with Longoria is his harm threat. He frolicked on the IL final season with accidents to his hand, indirect, hamstring, and thumb, and he additionally missed time resulting from ache in each shoulders. None of those illnesses had been significantly severe, but it surely’s clear his physique is feeling the consequences of a profession in skilled sports activities. At this level, it appears unlikely he can keep on the sphere for a complete season, and even when he stays wholesome, he’ll want loads of relaxation days to keep up his energy. Longoria would be the eldest common third baseman in 2023, and within the final 5 years, just one participant has fielded greater than 70 video games on the sizzling nook in his age-37 (or older) season: Adrián Beltré. In different phrases, if Longoria performs even half a season within the discipline, he ought to think about the yr a hit. Rojas and Rivera can deal with the remainder.

Longoria rose from the ashes in 2021, re-establishing himself as a respectable offensive risk. It makes excellent sense, then, that he’s coming to Phoenix. As an injury-prone, growing older participant trying to delay his profession, the place higher to go than a metropolis named for an immortal creature that symbolizes rebirth? The Diamondbacks, for his or her half, want to reemerge as nicely. It stays to be seen if Longoria will nonetheless be round after they return to rivalry, but when nothing else, his signing is a step in the precise route.