The Tampa Bay Rays have not had much to be happy with in the opening quarter of the 2014 season. They have suffered through key injuries and underperformances, which has caused them to play well below expectations. The Rays are 19-28, which puts them in last place in the AL East and second to last in the entire American League. The only team worse than the Rays in the AL is the Houston Astros, who have made coming in last place a habit the past few seasons.
One of the few bright spots this season for the Rays has been how well James Loney has performed so far. The first baseman is currently batting .311 with 1 home run and 22 RBIs. Loney leads the team in batting average, hits, RBIs, and doubles, making him the most valuable player in the Rays’ lineup. He has always been an above average player, but seems to really be stepping it up in a season where the Rays could use all the help they can get.
It has come as a surprise for most people that Loney has stood out for the Rays this year to such a large degree. Although he has been a reliable force in the Rays lineup since he joined the team in 2013, most did not expect that he would be outperforming players like Evan Longoria and Wil Myers. Both Longoria and Myers have had pretty mediocre seasons so far, which has had a seriously detrimental effect on the Rays’ offensive production throughout the season. Longoria is batting .253 with 4 home runs and 22 RBIs, and Myers has a .244 batting average with 4 homers and 20 RBIs.
Loney signed a new contract with the Rays at the conclusion of last year, and will be paid $21 million over the course of the next three seasons. This is good news for the Rays, who have had issues in the past with consistent offensive performances. Although Loney is not the type of hitter that can carry a team into the playoffs, he is certainly good enough to make a difference. The key for the Rays, as well as Loney, is getting some help from other hitters. Since the first baseman is not a power hitter, he cannot produce runs on his own. He needs other hitters like Longoria and Myers to step up and turn hits into runs.
James Loney has had a solid season so far, and has provided the Rays with some much-needed offense. Hopefully, the team can rally around his solid production and begin to get this season headed in the right direction.
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