Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: Evan Longoria deserves All-Star nod, could get squeezed out

Tuesday should be a good day for Rays 3B Evan Longoria.

If all goes the right way, he'll find out just before first pitch against the Angels that he was chosen for a spot on the American League roster for the July 12 All-Star Game in San Diego.

Unless he isn't, as a product of the clunky roster process.

Longoria deserves it, and if properly rewarded it will be his fourth All-Star selection overall, though his first since 2010. He is, understandably, openly excited about the possibility.

"It's a tremendous honor to be the representative of the ball club, and it's been a while, so it would be cool," Longoria said. "And especially being back in (his native southern) California, too. I assume my family would make the drive down. So it would be a nice event."

Longoria, hitting .281 with 18 homers (41 extra-base hits overall) and 44 RBIs, is the obvious choice to be the Rays' representative, an opinion that is pretty universal throughout the clubhouse and front office.

"I don't have any doubt," manager Kevin Cash said. "We get to watch him play every day. He's got a ton of big hits. His stats speak for themselves. The plays, the way he's played defensively. I don't know if how you lead a club goes into All-Star voting, I don't think it does, but what he's done here in some difficult circumstances has been pretty impressive.

"Ultimately, he's performed like an All-Star, and he's deserving to be an All-Star."

But here's the only possible hitch: Longoria might not fit on the team.

Third base is a deep position in the AL, even with Kansas City's Mike Moustakas on the DL. Either Baltimore's Manny Machado or Toronto's Josh Donaldson will be voted the starter by the fans, and the other — or Texas' Adrian Beltre — is likely to win the players vote as the reserve.

So unless Longoria unexpectedly gets voted in by his peers, he would have to be named to the team by AL/Royals manager Ned Yost. That's not as easy as it sounds, as Yost — after getting the nine fan-elected starters, plus nine reserves and eight pitchers voted by the players — has only seven spots to fill. When he managed last year, he added five pitchers and only two position players. (A 34th player is added to the roster in an Internet vote of five finalists.)

Still, every team has to be represented among the 33 players. And Longoria is the Rays' best candidate. So what could go wrong? Primarily, if RHP Alex Colome, who still ranks fourth in the league with 19 saves despite being idled since June 18 and on the DL, gets voted by the players to one of the three relief spots.

Or if Yost decides his roster — remember, this game does, for some ridiculous reason, count in determining homefield advantage for the World Series — is better with Colome in the bullpen than Longoria as a third third baseman.

That could pose an interesting dilemma, because even if Colome is over his biceps tendinitis and activated off the DL, the Rays likely wouldn't want him to pitch in San Diego. But an injured/inactive player still counts as a representative.

Similarly, Longoria could be bumped out if 2B Logan Forsythe were considered a better fit on the roster.

Stranger things have happened.

One of the most glaring Rays examples came in 2003, when OF/1B Aubrey Huff seemed like the obvious choice, and rookie Rocco Baldelli the most logical option. But instead they got a stunning surprise: that RHP Lance Carter, who was 5-3 with 14 saves and a 4.17 ERA and was about to be moved out of his closer's job, was the choice.

Longoria knows all he can control is continuing to play well and hope what seems logical works out.

"I want to play at an elite level to help the team win, not necessarily to be on an All-Star team," Longoria said. "But to be included in that group at the halfway point is just a reminder of all the hard work we put in, and how special it is when it pays off."

Numbers game

Evan Longoria is on pace for one of his best seasons, especially in terms of power numbers, and ranks among the AL leaders in a handful of offensive categories. He credits the improvement to some changes: a May adjustment to widen his stance and two shifts in his conditioning, to be more flexible and to maintain strength, especially in-season. "I've been trying to lift, do an actual weightlifting workout once a week," he said. "Also to eat a little bit more, and just try to keep the weight on. Last year over the course of the year I lost probably 10 pounds. I've been more focused in trying to keep some weight on, and hopefully that means keeping some strength on."

Here is a look at his numbers, what his current pace projects to and his career best in each category:

Avg. H 2B HR RBIs XBH SLG OBP OPS

So far: .281 86 23 18 44 41 .533 .335 .868

Projected: .281 176 47 37 90 84 .533 .335 .868

Career best: .294 169 46 33 113 77 .531 .369 .896

First at third?

How Evan Longoria compares to other AL third basemen in several categories (through Friday):

All-Star voting

Manny Machado, O's 2,196,732

Josh Donaldson, Jays 1,590,183

Mike Moustakas, Royals* 1,135,431

Adrian Beltre, Rangers 1,099,086

Nick Castellanos, Tigers 789,144

Evan Longoria, Rays NA

* On the DL, out indefinitely

On-base plus slugging

Josh Donaldson, Jays .964

Danny Valencia, A's .891

Evan Longoria, Rays .868

Nick Castellanos, Tigers .867

Kyle Seager, Mariners .858

Fielding percentage/errors

Adrian Beltre, Rangers .991/2

Evan Longoria, Rays .980/4

Chase Headley, Yankees .975/5

Todd Frazier, White Sox .975/5

Nick Castellanos, Tigers .974/5

Short stops

• There will be extensive trade speculation — and there is already some legitimate interest — with the Rays' top four starters. The Rangers and Royals are among those already scouting LHP Matt Moore and RHP Jake Odorizzi, and others will be. RHP Chris Archer would take a big deal; LHP Drew Smyly would have to pitch better.

• Starting pitchers won't be the only targets. Though RHP Erasmo Ramirez looks worn out, reports of interest by the Dodgers indicate a market. And INF/DH Steve Pearce, once he gets off the DL, seems likely to be in play.

Rays rumblings

Some perspective on the Lightning's big deal with Steven Stamkos: His annual average of $8.5 million is only slightly more than the Rays are paying 1B James Loney this season — to play for the Mets. … Odds for the Rays winning the World Series grew over the past month from 66-1 to 150-1, per the Bovada online site. … Former Rays OF prospect Andrew Toles, their 2013 top minor-leaguer who was released in March 2015 after discipline/personal issues, is starring in Andrew Friedman's Dodgers system, just promoted to Triple A. … Cellphone video of Coastal Carolina product Taylor Motter's onfield reaction to his school's College World Series win had 2.2 million views via social media, plus some ESPN SportsCenter time. … Triple-A Durham hitting coach Ozzie Timmons, already in the University of Tampa Hall of Fame, will receive the Sam Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award. … The Rays on the Runway fashion show raised $125,000 for the Children's Dream Fund.

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