Make Or Break Year: James Loney

Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are arguably the best player and the best pitcher in baseball, respectively, and both came up through the Dodgers' farm system. Los Angeles has also produced an All-Star closer (Jonathan Broxton), an All-Star catcher (Russell Martin), another All-Star starting pitcher (Chad Billingsley), and numerous other pieces in recent years. One player who has not developed as expected is first baseman James Loney.

Uspw_5478022One year ago, the 27-year-old Loney was a non-tender candidate after hitting .267/.329/.395 with ten homers in 648 plate appearances in 2010. He started slowly last season, hitting just .254/.305/.327 through his first 434 plate appearances before turning it on in the second half and hitting .388/.438/.679 in his final 148 trips to the plate. That late-season hot streak likely saved Loney's job, as the Dodgers tendered him a contract and will pay him $6.375MM in 2012.

The Dodgers have been using the left-handed hitting Loney as part of a first base platoon with the right-handed Juan Rivera so far this year, and he's hitting just .194/.306/.258 in the early going. He's a career .299/.359/.453 hitter against righties and .250/.307/.365 against lefties. Other than seven innings of right field experience much earlier in his career, he's limited to first base and doesn't offer any versatility.

Loney will be a free agent after the season and first basemen with minimal power usually aren't hot commodities on the open market. His career high is 15 homers back in 2007, which he did in just 96 games. Since then he's hit no more than 13 homers while playing no less than 158 games in a season. A player Loney's age is just entering his prime, but his performance has declined in recent years and now he might hit the open market with his value at its nadir.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

22 Responses to Make Or Break Year: James Loney Leave a Reply

  1. bill waters 3 years ago

    dont forget Andre Ethier, either…say that 5 times fast! ūüėČ

  2. bill waters 3 years ago

    oh, traded by Oakland…forgot that…nevermind…

  3. Tko11 3 years ago

    Loney is an overpaid bench player, he’s gotta go!

    • grabarkewitz 3 years ago

      Just like Uribe. ¬†Unfortunately, we are stuck with these two stiffs until Stan Kasten has seen enough. ¬† I hope he is a quick study and while he is at it, lose Kennedy, Coffey, Guerrier and Capuano. ¬† A real shame that we could’ve had Eovaldi and Kuroda for less money than we will be paying Harang and Capuano.¬†

      • James Cox 3 years ago

         You do realize Kuroda wanted 14 million to stay with the Dodgers? Capuano will be just fine. Guerrier has an ERA around 2, and Kennedy was a cheap bench player with versatility.

  4. jwsox 3 years ago

    verlander might have something to say about being the best pitcher in baseball

    • Cosmo3 3 years ago

      It’s close. They’re basically the two best pitchers in baseball right now. I think I’d still give the edge to Kershaw, though. He had a lower ERA last season, and has generally been even more dominant than Verlander for the few years before that.¬†

  5. jwsox 3 years ago

    its amazing how long this team has stuck with him at 1st, I mean yes he gets on base at a decent clip and plays solid D but he does not hit for power and 1st base is the one position throughout baseball that you take less defense for more power..It will be interesting to see what the dodgers do this year and off season.

    they are off the a great start and has a solid rotation and some good players throughout but they need some guys to come up big or make some trade, i dont know anything about their system so I dont know what they could trade to get some players   any one can help?

    • neoncactus 3 years ago

      ¬†They keep him because it’s the new Dodger tradition every spring training to project that he will hit over 25 homers.

  6. Nick Sossamon 3 years ago

    Here’s your big bat, Blue Jays!

    • Bombastic_Dave 3 years ago

      If Murphy can get Mathis to hit like he has over the incredibly small sample size this season, he might be able to get Loney to do well, too!  

  7. BrocNessMonster 3 years ago


  8. there just isn’t a market for another “Mark Grace” in today’s game.

  9. BlueSkyLA
    BlueSkyLA 3 years ago

    Loney is such a puzzle. When he came up he was a model of consistency, hitting lefties and righties equally well and without long slumps. He has always been a plus defensively (fielding ability not mentioned in the article for some reason).¬†The only flaw was his middling power production.¬†Somewhere along the line he became a streaky hitter with problems facing lefties and diminishing power. This year he started off terrible then woke up again over the last week or so. This kind of inconsistency drives managers and coaches nuts. He’s got maybe two more months to show whether he’s got what it takes to stay. It is truly make or break time for Loney.

  10. monkeydung 3 years ago

    I’m pretty sure that Ned Colletti only remembers one at-bat for Loney, and that was the grandslam at Wrigley back in 2008.

    He is a replacement level player at best, and only gets a slide from Dodgers fans because he is homegrown and has a decent glove.

    Hopefully Sands can find his swing again and Rivera or Sands can man 1B.

    • BlueSkyLA
      BlueSkyLA 3 years ago

      I’m so completely certain you are wrong about Colletti evaluating Loney based on one at-bat that I’d be willing to bet the house on it. I don’t believe that Loney gets a slide from anyone. He has to produce or we’d all want to see someone better in his position. The question is why he shows periods of fine hitting mixed with periods of total futility. Sands still looks like a long shot, but you may be right that our best option for first next year might be picking up Rivera’s option.

      • monkeydung 3 years ago

        the colletti think was a joke. that’s all. I do think Loney is relatively popular among Dodgers fans. Maybe not among those of us who are active commenting here, or on MSTI or True Blue LA, but overall I think Loney is liked in LA. More so than he would be with the same production if he was acquired via trade or free agency.

        • BlueSkyLA
          BlueSkyLA 3 years ago

          Okay, hard to tell sometimes. Loney doesn’t seem to be despised among fans in general, at least not the way he is here, but I think even those who aren’t haters are frustrated with his inconsistency. I get what you are saying. I think the tolerance among fans in general comes from all the promise he showed in his first few seasons and the hopes that he can get it back.

  11. thegrayrace 3 years ago

    Dodgers should’ve spent $800k more and signed Carlos Pena. Loney shouldn’t have been tendered a contract. At least he is a free agent after this season, no more excuses for keeping him around.

  12. lakersdodgersyankees4life 3 years ago

    honestly, if you make it to the minors you make more than most fans haha

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