(6) Matt Long, 26, Of/2b. AAA. 3.8 WAR, +19 bat, +2 glove. .293/.371/.471 with 14 HR and 20 SB
First off, he added a pretty amazing beard over the offseason, so there's that. Second, and more to the point, after getting needlessly buried by minor league imports for two consecutive years, Long is getting his first legitimate look for a spot on the Halos' depth chart.
Long does a lot of things well. He offers a nice combination of secondary skills at the plate, annually posting a 10%+ walk rate while averaging 15 homeruns over the last three campaigns. Despite a frame that's thickened since I first saw him back in 2010, he's remained an effective baserunner, notching +7 runs in that category according to Baseball Prospectus last year. He's versatile in the field, profiling best in right with decent range and sufficient arm, but he can also hold down center and even second base on occasion. In so many ways, he's the practically perfect fourth outfielder.
So how come we haven't seen that timer go "ding," like we did with Calhoun? It all comes down to his hit tool. I looked at Long's swing a couple of years ago, and noted the upper-cut and pull tendencies. At the time, he was keeping the k-rate down, despite the "masher" mechanics, but over the past few years it's become clear that the modest distance power comes with tradeoffs: he struck out over 50% more than Calhoun did in 2013, and his 12% pop-up rate last year was almost double the PCL average. BP's PECOTA projects him to hit around .240 in the majors, which is about what his 2013 PCL batting lines translates to and seems a fair assessment of his skill level. That said, PECOTA also speculates that he'd provide half a win in value as well in limited playing time, so tips its hat to his other skills.
Matt Long is entering his age 27 season, and is a hot streak and a couple of injuries on the big league club away from playing time at the majors. He's earned it. If his cup of coffee doesn't come this year, I'd bet money that he'll get it with another club at some point in his peak years. He should have no shortage of suitors if/when he hits minor league free agency at the conclusion of 2014.