Last spring #freemattlong became an obsession on Twitter for Los Angeles Angels’ fans. After a spring of domination in which former 30th round pick, Matt Long batted .408 with a .426 OBP and an OPS of 1.099, he failed to make the Angels 25 man roster. Much of the reasoning to being sent back down was the crowed outfield situation in Los Angeles. Shocked fans questioned how they could let a talent like this head back down to the bushes.
Now no longer an Angel, the soon to be 28-year-old prospect has a chance to prove himself, this time as a Milwaukee Brewer. Though the Brewers’ outfield situation may be just as crowded, Long has the talent to hit his way on to the roster this spring.
Long has yet to appear in a major league game, but in six seasons of minor league ball he has excelled. Though last season was a bit of a down year, Long was at his best in 2013. That season he batted .293 with 14 home runs and 20 steals.
In six minor league seasons, Long has a .286 batting average with 60 home runs and 128 steals. His great speed has also helped him to be an extra-base hit machine, mashing 146 doubles and 54 triples in his career.
These numbers have been great, but he has never quite been able to get over the hump as a fifth or sixth major league outfielder. But as Taylor Ward, of Inside the Halos has indicated, Long has more utility value than he has ever been given credit for. Ward noted that throughout his time in college at the University of Santa Clara, Long was know to have not only played the outfield, but he also played all infield positions other than first base.
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In the minors he also has proven to have the ability to play in a utility role. He has seen the majority of his innings in centerfield, but he has also played over 100 games in left, right and at second base. This type of utility experience could be valuable on the Brewers’ roster.
Right now, the Brewers like the Angels have plenty of outfield depth. Not only do they have three starters with high upside, but in Gerardo Parra they have a Gold Glove outfielder on the bench. In competition for the final outfield spot on the roster Long is currently in a battle against the likes of Shane Peterson and Logan Schafer. While I do not view Schafer as a huge threat for Long, Peterson’s ability to also play first will be Long’s biggest threat in competing for a final spot.
Long got off to a good start again this spring by starting his first game with an RBI-single (though it was against UW-Milwaukee). He is back in the lineup again for the Cactus League opener, batting ninth against his former team. If he can produce the way he did last spring, #freemattlong could become a sensation around Brewers’ fans this April, too.