There are probably a half dozen legitimate picks for starting a franchise around, but if I had the first overall pick in the new franchise draft, my choice would be pretty easy: Evan Longoria.
- Longoria is one of the most well-rounded players in baseball, providing tons of value on the field at a premium defensive positions as well as with his bat and on the bases.
- He's young. Having just turned 26 about a month ago, Longoria already has two 7+ WAR seasons under his belt, and his probably not in his prime yet. Why?
- He's still getting better. His strikeout rate has dropped, and his walk rate has increased, in each of his four MLB seasons. 2011 seemed to be a statistical down year for him, but it appears to be more a fluke than a trend. He only got hits 24% of the time when putting the ball in play, ordinarily he's closer to 30%. Put his new, higher walk rate and power rate with a typical BABIP, and you're looking at a .300/.400/.550 season. That plus good defense from a third baseman, and you're looking at the one player in baseball most likely to put up a 10 WAR season in the next few years.
- In case you weren't already sold, Longoria is signed to the most ridiculously team-friendly contract that we're likely to see in a long time. Assuming that his no-brainer options for 2014-2016 are picked up, the Rays will have Longoria under control for the next 5 seasons for a total of $40.5 million, or about 30% more than what A-Rod made last season. Longoria is likely to provide the Rays at least 30 WAR over that time, and that kind of value should ensure that they'll be competitive throughout the next half decade.