The secret is out! Matt Long is good at baseball. The prospect stayed under the radar for quite some time but has had one of the best springs you could possibly have. Just take a look at this slash: .432/.468/.705... yes, that is a 1.173 OPS. Long however is registered as an outfielder which happens to be the hardest position to break in to for the Los Angeles Angels currently. Fans want him in Anaheim though, coaches want him there, seems we all want him there, especially since the break of the social media hashtag: #FreeMattLong.
Matt Long was drafted in the 30th round of 2009 MLB Draft out of Santa Clara University. He has spent five years in the minor leagues, all with the Angels, going through the system steadily from Rookie Ball all the way to Triple-A. Over his five years in the system, Long has hit .293/.370/.469 having 35.9% of his 631 hits being extra base hits (127 doubles, 50 triples, 50 home runs). If that triples statistic doesn't give you an idea already, he has some serious wheels, stealing 103 bases only being caught 39 times.
With numbers that good how has Long stayed so low on the radar? How will Long break in to the depth chart without just showing strong numbers in Spring Training though? Well... how about we start viewing him as a utility player?
"A utility player?" you may ask. Matt Long actually has a little bit more to show. It all starts in college. Long grew up in Mountain View, California (about a six hour drive and 370 miles north of Angel Stadium) and went to college about a half hour jog from there. According to a source, while at Santa Clara University, Long played all infield and outfield positions excluding first base.
The one worth viewing most is the second base slot. While in the minors, Long played in the outfield for the first three years. For the past two however, Long has been moved in to the infield and has spent time playing the second base position nearly as much as his time in the outfield. While playing in the grass part of the field for 139 games, he was moved to the dirt of the infield and second base 109 times (once at shortstop). While at second base during that time, Long had a .970 fielding percentage.
With Long being a utility player, it's worth noting that he switched from the outfield to the infield in four games, including a game where he started in center field, moved to second base, and then returned back to center field on July 30th, 2013, against the Iowa Cubs.
With Long battling J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill for the fourth/fifth outfield position, he has now entered in to the battle for second base bench player. With John McDonald being a near fill in for the bench position already, Long is currently battling Grant Green for that utility infield position as well.
Matt Long's scouting report does not say anything about him not being capable of playing the middle infield, and actual shows a lot of promise at the four position already. With that said, say it loud and say it proud, #FreeMattLong.
Long's future as a bench player will unfold in the closing days of Spring Training, but, there is a lot of promise in the 26-year-old prospect, and he has the talent and capablities of being the utility player the Angels need.
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