After losing B.J. Upton this off-season, the Tampa Bay Rays knew that they had to find a way to remain competitive as one of the better teams in the MLB and in the American League East. Most of what they ended up doing was developing their young talent and showing faith in their core group of guys to continue developing.
One move that they did make in the off-season was to sign first-baseman James Loney to a one-year $2 million contract, a move that seemed much like a safety measure and appeared inconsequentialy for the Rays when it happened. Through the first 43 games of this season, Loney’s performance has been anything but dismissible.
Through the start of the season, Loney has been absolutely fantastic. He’s currently hitting .356 and has an OBP of .411 and an OPS of .926. He’s also driven in 21 runs, scored 19 runs, and shown flashes of some power by hitting three over the fences. Loney has been absolutely killing opponents and helping the Rays so far this year.
The curious thing about Loney’s hot start to the year, though, is the fact that he’s never really performed at that level before. He’s hit over .300 just once in his career before this year and hit .249 in 144 games played in the majors last season. He’s never been able to sustain success like this.
According to FanGraphs Baseball, he’s likely not going to be able to sustain what he’s doing this year, either. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t still be able to have a solid year. Assuming he stays healthy, it’s still reasonable to believe that with regression he could still hit around .300, hit double-digit home runs, and possibly gather around 70-80 RBIs. For a player that has been as unimpressive as Loney in recent years and that Tampa Bay is paying such little money to this season, that’s still a great year.