One of the few questions left standing before spring training opens is whether Evan Longoria will begin the season as the Rays' third baseman or as the Bulls' third baseman? Looking at Longoria's slash stats he appears ready: .269/.397/.490 in AAA, 0.76 walks per strikeout, and then you see it: a 27.9 strikeout percentage.
In Longoria's previous four stops his K% never rose above 21.3, in fact the change from his A ball K% to AA, 6.1, is lower than the change from AA to AAA. It's a bit of a drastic jump, consider that Durham is a hitter's park, and that while many complained about B.J. Upton and his 32.5 K% last year in AAA he sat around 22.4, suggesting that the jump to the majors will increase the total of strikeouts even more.
While that's concerning, the question is should it keep Longoria down? Probably not, but what about the Ryan Braun approach, the Brewers held down their stud until June in order to gain what works out to about 6.75 years from Braun rather than 6 years and potentially gone, for a team like the Rays, this extra bit of playing time is obviously tempting, after all right around the time Longoria would theoretically be discussing a new contract players like B.J. Upton and James Shields should be receiving large paydays, and David Price will be in arbitration.
Recent examples like Braun and David Wright suggest third basemen breaking in mid-season works a lot better for the player and the team, and while I won't suggest Alex Gordon would've done better playing in AAA for six weeks, it probably wouldn't have hurt. Consider that Braun and Wright were in mid-season form and weren't as worried about being sent down Gordon however had to be timid, he was facing major league pitching for the first time, with the added hype of his surroundings, and the thought of being demoted if he didn't do well had to be in his mind.
For the Rays, leaving Longoria down for a few weeks also allows them to get a look at Joel Guzman at third, eventually a decision has to be made on what they'll do with Guzman while bringing in an insurance policy in case Guzman abruptly busts and the team's performance is brought down by him - say Morgan Ensberg - would leave the Rays in a decent enough situation until Longoria and Guzman trade off locals and the veteran could slide into being the reserve once again, or perhaps have enough value to trade off - in that sense a Ty Wigginton type would be great.
Hopefully the Rays do whatever they feel is best without taking money into consideration, but if you would've told me a few months ago that we would've had Longoria in Durham to begin the year I wouldn't be nearly as accepting if I don't see Longoria in Baltimore on March 31st.