Should Rays’ James Loney Be an All-Star?

By David Hill

At first blush, the concept of James Loney and ‘All-Star’ may be considered somewhat ridiculous. He is in the midst of a solid season, but if the Rays representative in the game is likely to be Evan Longoria. Should the Rays get a second player into the game, Loney still may not be considered, given the logjam of talented first basemen in the American League. Chris Davis is having a phenomenal season, challenging Miguel Cabrera for the home run and RBI titles, while Prince Fielder and even Edwin Encarnacion are bigger names than Loney. It would seem as though there would be virtually no chance that he would be making the trek to Citi Field.

Yet, Loney actually has a case to make the Midsummer Classic. His numbers may not overwhelm, as the only categories where he cracks the top ten in the American League are batting average at .318 (sixth) and OPS+ at 137 (tenth). However, when placed against the rest of the American League first basemen, Loney has been one of the best thus far in 2013. His .318 batting average and .369 on base percentage are second only to Davis, and his .850 OPS ranks third. Even though defense typically does not factor into the All-Star Game nomination process, Loney has also been quite valuable around the bag, making the transition from Carlos Pena smooth even in that regard.

Loney, however, lags far behind in the ‘counting stats,’ as he simply is not that much of a power hitter. His nine home runs and 42 RBIs are solid production for the Rays, but are overshadowed by the production of Davis, Fielder and Encarnacion. Since players such as Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind have the same amount of homers, Loney may end up being overlooked.

An All-Star nod would also be a fitting tribute to Loney’s resurrection. As someone who was essentially an afterthought as a free agent, and had been unable to develop as he was expected to as a former top prospect, Loney has been able to restart his career in Tampa.

James Loney may deserve to be an All-Star this season, particularly given the lack of production from the position this year. Yet, due to playing in Tampa and having the stigma of never turning into the player that he was expected to be, Loney is unlikely to be selected. Although he may be deserving, Loney is likely to be watching the game just like the rest of us.