Is Loney Ready to Take Over?

Now, let's see. What's this year's question about James Loney? I mean, there's always some doubts raised. It's become a tradition around this time like Trick or Treating at Halloween.

Oh, yeah, it's can he be an everyday first baseman in the big leagues? That's an improvement over the others that preceded it like (1) Was he a reach in the first round of the draft as a hitter not a pitcher? (2) Is he injury-prone ? (3) Is he overrated ? and, always, (4) Where's the power?

He's succeeded in answering most of the above although that last one about the power lingers on. He certainly displayed signs of maturing in that department during the last month with the big club but the critics haven't gone away.

The fact that he led all the minors in hitting with a .380 mark demonstrated that he's very much for real with the bat. Still, I saw someplace where someone referred to the, and I quote, "mediocre" seasons before that. Mediocre? At age 19 he was one of the top hitters in the Florida State League. True, he hit only .238 in 2004 but that was after being hit by a pitch that broke a finger that became so infected that at one point they wondered if they could save it. He shouldn't have been playing at all.

And the .284 he produced with Jacksonville in 2005 was mediocre? Here's a 21-year-old in AA who included 31 doubles in his output. He also hit 11 homers and they questioned his power. Joel Guzman hit 16 and they wrote reverently about his .

C'mon, it's time to give this kid a break. Can he play everyday in the big leagues? Everything he's done suggests that he can. What's more, he's still improving. His 2006 season was his first in AAA and was his best yet. When Nomar went down in the final playoff game, there was hand-wringing but when they put James in he got hits and drove in runs. It sure wasn't his failure that saw the Dodgers eliminated. And how about that game in Colorado?

Now he's set for winter ball in the Dominican Republic where they'll probably play him some in the outfield. Well, okay, that can't hurt but remember there's few at any level that play first any better than he does. It's often said that first is the easiest position around but that's uttered by those unacquainted with the grace it takes to do well there. James saves many an error during the course of a season as he scoops low throws and stretches for the high ones.

He's just 22 and adding experience to his inherent abilities. Can he play first in the big leagues on a regular basis? He's been proving his doubters wrong for awhile now. Chances are good he'll convert some more believers in this matter as well.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories