One of the names that even people who don’t follow the Rays or even baseball at all will probably recognize anyway is Evan Longoria. An all around good guy who was a highly ranked prospect who has lived up to everything we were promised from the moment he and his bat hit the majors. Third base is the only position at this point, aside from pitchers, where it seams certain the Rays will have the same starter for the next couple of seasons.
Starter: Evan Longoria
Longoria wasn’t always a top prospect. In fact he didn’t have a single scholarship offer coming out of high school. But then he started working his way up the ranks. A year at a community college earned him first team all-state honors and a scholarship offer from Long State Beach where he played for three years. It was at Long State Beach he had to move from shortstop to third base because they already had Troy Tulowitzki taking up that position.
His play in college was impressive enough that the Rays picked him 3rd overall in 2006. Once he arrived in the organization there was no stopping him. He made it up to double-A during 2006 and reached Triple-A in late 2007. It was expected he would start in the Majors in 2008, but they might have been afraid he was too good to be true and wanted to make sure he got a little more experience in Triple-A first. It didn’t take long though before an injury forced them to promote him and since he got his first start he hasn’t let it go since. In 2008 Longoria signed a six year contract, making him the player who is currently signed for the longest time.
When your starter has more RBIs than anybody else in the league at his position, you can’t really ask for anything more. The fact he is also third in runs is only icing on the cake. For a player who was called the best pure hitter in his draft there is no reason to think he is going to slow down.
Again you really can’t ask for anything more. Longoria is still a very young player with more than enough athleticism to play the third base and years ahead of him before he will reach his physical peak. It is going to be a pleasure to follow him playing for the Rays the next four seasons.
Backup: Willy Aybar
It was Aybar who got injured in 2008 while playing third base, forcing the organization to make Longoria take over a little bit before they wanted to. There is no doubt who is the better player but third base is a position where Aybar can fill in very well whenever it is needed.
Because they have Longoria signed up for the long term there isn’t really anybody ready in Triple-A to play third base in the majors. They do have Matt Sweeney playing third base who is among the best prospects among non-pitchers, but it appears to be much more likely that he will be moved to first base in the Majors and might even be a candidate to take over for Carlos Penã if they can’t keep him.