February 3, 2017
Taken immediately after Luke Hochevar and Greg Reynolds, Evan Longoria was the third-overall pick of the 2006 draft. It wouldn’t take long for the then-called Devil Rays to realize they had made a great pick. The third baseman was a top-ten prospect prior to both the 2007 and 2008 seasons. The latter would be his first year in the majors, and he didn’t hesitate to make an impact. He posted an .874 OPS over 122 games and took home the Rookie of the Year award. He also signed one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball history with almost no major-league experience. Longoria quickly became one of the best players in the league and the face of the franchise just as the Rays were entering a period of consistent contention. Heading into the 2016 season, Longoria was an established star who made three All-Star teams and received MVP votes in five of his eight seasons. He also appeared to be on the decline, however. Still just 30 years old, Longoria was coming off two straight years in which he was merely good rather than great. Things took quite the turn in the right direction last season.
What Went Right in 2016
The most obvious area in which Longoria excelled in 2016 was the power department, which makes him very much like the league as a whole. His 36 home runs marked a career high and made 2016 the fourth time he’s broken the 30 home run mark. It wasn’t just the home runs, though. He also hit 41 doubles and five triples, both of which were his highest marks since 2010. All of this contributed to his .248 ISO, which was his highest since 2011 and 18th-highest in all of baseball right in between Daniel Murphy and Miguel Cabrera. Longoria was able to regain his power stroke by changing his swing to put the ball in the air more. He dramatically cut his ground-ball rate and made up for it with flyballs and line drives, finishing with a HR:FB only slightly higher than his career rate.