One of the hallmarks of the Rays run of success has been how players who may be overlooked have come through when it has mattered most. Players such as Dan Johnson and Nathan Haynes (2008) to Dan Johnson again (2011) contributed when the game was on the line. That trend has continued again this week, with Jason Bourgeois and Jose Lobaton coming through with clutch game winning hits.
In the case of Lobaton, his game winning hits may have been the most surprising. On Friday, Lobaton laced a walkoff triple down the line to right, plating Yunel Escobar with the game winning run. Prior to that at bat, Lobaton had exactly one other triple in his major league career, coming on August 2nd against the San Francisco Giants. Yesterday, Lobaton hammered a homer to right in the bottom of the tenth to provide the Rays with the winning margin. That home run was just the seventh of Lobaton’s career.
Those two hits are just another high point to the season Lobaton has been having this year. He has already surpassed his career totals in hits, doubles and home runs this year, while providing steady offensive production when he has been in the lineup. His batting line of .255/.316/.399 may not be considered to be overly impressive at first glance, but those numbers reflect the best production by a Rays catcher since John Jaso in 2010.
Not only has Lobaton helped provide unexpected offensive production, but he may have cemented his place as the starting catcher for the Rays next season. Jose Molina is a free agent after this season, and is likely best suited for a backup role. Chris Gimenez seems to be perfectly suited as a backup catcher, and has the ability to play other positions as needed. Unless the Rays go outside the organization, it would seem that Lobaton has put himself into position to be the primary catcher for 2014.
Jose Lobaton has been a part of the Rays excellent offensive attack this season, and his solid year has flown mostly under the radar. But for one weekend, Lobaton has had his moment in the sun. Given his progression this year, that recognition has been well deserved.