Loving Longoria by Dave Cameron May 9, 2009 Odds are, you know Evan Longoria is pretty good. He’s just 23, but he’s already made his mark on the American League with a stellar rookie season, and he’s followed it up with a strong start to the 2009 season. It wouldn’t be that controversial to call Longoria the best young player in the American League. I’m here to say we can take the word young out of the previous sentence. Evan Longoria is the best player in the American League. He’s not that far behind Albert Pujols for the title of best player in baseball. So far, Longoria has racked up 637 major league plate appearances, basically one full season’s worth. His career line – .291/.356/.574, good for a .395 wOBA. His power has developed earlier than anyone expected, making him one of the premier sluggers in baseball. He covers the plate, drives the ball to all fields, works the count, and crushes mistakes. The list of players who have hit this well at this early stage of their careers is littered with Hall Of Fame talents. If that wasn’t enough, Longoria might just be the best defensive third baseman in the game. He posted a UZR of +14.9 in 119 games last year, he stood at +4.5 through the most recent update last Sunday. His career UZR/150 stands at +20.5, thanks to his excellent footwork and reactions, which allow him to swallow up nearly every ball hit within shouting distance of third base. He was praised more for his glove than his bat coming out of college, so this kind of defensive excellence isn’t a surprise. He really could play shortstop, and probably be above average there. Add up the total package, and in 151 major league games, Longoria has been worth +7.8 wins to the Rays. In what amounts to one season’s worth of playing time, Longoria has performed at a +8 win level that is rarefied territory. Our win value data goes back to 2002, and in the 7+ years of data that we have here on the site, Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have a massive lead over everyone else. Pujols has +56.7 wins, while Rodriguez has +55.2 wins. On a per year basis, those totals work out to just about +8 wins per year. Longoria, in his first season’s worth of major league performance, as a 22 and 23 year old playing in the toughest division in baseball, has performed at a level essentially equal to what Pujols and Rodriguez have sustained for most of the decade. His rookie “season” was the equal of most MVP seasons. This kid is sick.