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40 in 40: Shed Long Jr.

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All signs point to a good year from Shed so long as the Mariners find a spot on the field for him

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
light as a feather, astronomically huge
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

You know how some people are forever a certain age? Like how it’s hard to picture a toddler named Barbara and almost impossible to imagine a senior citizen named Ryleigh or McKaela or whatever you people are naming your kids now? I’m worried that Shed Long will always be frozen in time, forever suspended in my head as a 24-year-old ultralight beam.

In my mind’s eye, Shedric Bernard Long Jr. is going to be eternally young, smiley, and vibrant. If all goes according to plan, the Mariners will be hoisting the 2025 World Series trophy at their downtown parade with Shed Long proudly touting the hardware, his grin turned up and his face unaged.

In the immediate future, when Shed will most definitely have his youthful exuberance still intact, the Mariners will likely be relying on him for 400+ plate appearances. As of this writing, he’s listed as the starter at second base ahead of Dee Gordon. Obviously, trading Gordon is difficult now that his value has cratered, and benching a twentysomething Long—who put up a 111 wRC+ last year—for a thirtysomething with a 77 wRC+ is the opposite of rebuilding. If the Mariners are serious about getting this current group into the postseason, they have to throw them in the deep end and see if they swim.

Long did more than enough to keep his head above water last year. In 42 games as a true rookie, he clubbed .263/.333/.454 with a judicious 9.5 BB%. Long’s 0.7 fWAR also outpaced Gordon, Domingo Santana, and Mallex Smith, who each had at least 250 more plate appearances than him. Though hopefully the second baseman of the future, Long also flexed some positional versatility by filling in at third base and left field as needed. The Mariners, though, are certainly hoping that Long’s bat, not his glove, will headline his big-league scouting report.

In his first go-round against major league pitching, Long diverted his hits from pole to pole. Some of his extra base hits, in fact, literally landed on the foul line.

Charts courtesy of FanGraphs

His two most notable highlights perfectly showcase the slight slugger’s hit profile. The first, a Crawford Box home run to break up a perfect game, could prove to be a nice “I belong here” moment for Long. While this ball is not a home run anywhere else, it counts all the same as an opposite field homer against one of baseball’s best pitchers. Long turned around a 95 MPH heater and plopped it in the left field seats, the sound off his bat ringing through Minute Maid Park like a trash can in the night.

The second bullet point on Long’s CV came in Pittsburgh. I hope you all find the strength to dispel negativity from your life like Long did to this poor baseball.

For a famously small man, Long possesses a spellbinding amount of power. In last year’s prospect rankings, I compared his swing plane to Cody Bellinger, one of the poster children of the launch angle revolution. Perhaps someone got in Long’s ear about elevating the ball more often, as his ground ball rate went from 54.6% with the Reds’ 2018 Double-A affiliate to 47.3% in his abbreviated season with the Mariners. His strikeout rate stayed mostly in line too despite facing the best pitchers of his life.

Hopefully with a new year comes more opportunities to watch and analyze Shed Long. His debut stint had a lot of things to like, with my only note being that he needs to hydrate!

Shed Long doesn’t drink water

You read that correctly. Let’s just let Servais tell the story.

“You know, you learn a lot from these guys. Interviewing (Long), when he got up the first day he said, ‘I don’t like drinking water.’

“I said, ‘This could be a concern. Why don’t we drink water?’

“‘Cause I don’t like the way it tastes.’

“I said, ‘Well, sometimes water tastes different in different parts of the country.’

“Haniger threw him a bottle of Aquafina, said ‘Try this one. It’s not too bad.’”

I would love to wake up on Opening Day and see Shed Long Jr. written in the lineup card as the second baseman, double fisting Hydro Flasks. This is less of an indictment on Dee Gordon, who has a 90-grade personality, and more of an endorsement for Shed. He is also an intriguing candidate for the leadoff spot, (Mallex Smith don’t read this) as the Mariners don’t have a natural fit there and Long has filled the role 17 times already.

Some other important things to know about Shed as we gear up for the new year are that he appears to be going by Shed Long Jr. now, he changed jersey numbers from 39 to 4, and he absolutely stunted on all of us from a throne of hay.

RIP, the rest of the Internet. This snapshot will be my lasting image of Shedric Bernard Long Jr. no matter if he’s 24, 34, or 64 years old.