Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expressed an interest in going after power bats, bullpen help and bottom-of-the-rotation guys. Well, James Loney fits into none of those categories. What he does fit into is a giant hole in the Astros’ lineup known as first base. He’d also fit into the gaping hole of a hitter with a consistent batting average.
More than likely, despite Loney being a free agent this coming offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to extend him given his success in the Tampa lineup.
That being said, if Loney does elect free agency, he could be a potential target of the Astros. The Astros were 28th in first baseman batting average at .224. They were fifth in home runs. What needs the most improvement? Batting average.
Loney would give the Astros a 76-point boost in average at first base as he hit .300 this year. He also put up 75 RBIs, that’s one more RBI than the Astros’ first basemen got all year. Home runs are fine and good, but it’s runs that count, and Loney gets runs and he gets on base.
The Astros are also known for their penchant for strikeouts, particularly at first base, where they were second in MLB with 219 from that position on their way to averaging a strikeout every 2.6 at-bats. Loney was quite the opposite, only striking out 77 times for an average of a strikeout every 7.1 at-bats. That’s a big leap.
And then there’s the Houston factor.
Loney is a native of Houston, Texas, and the Astros have not been shy about targeting guys from the Space City. Players are typically pretty keen to play for their hometown club, and it can lead to an increase in production as well. At only 29 years of age, Loney could be the Astros’ first baseman until one of their many prospects finally makes a case for the starting role. And even then, the designated hitter slot is open.
It all depends on what the Rays decide on Loney, but hopefully he has at least appeared on the Astros’ radar.