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Loney Nights At First Base

I'm noticed various outlets recommending Dodgers rookie James Loney as a good NL-only pickup while Nomar Garciaparra is out.  I'm not so sure.

It's true that Loney, a left-handed first baseman, will get most of the ABs against righthanders in April.  Maybe it's because I have never seen him play in person, but I can't understand why anyone would be high on him.  Last year in Double A Jacksonville, Loney hit .284/.357/.419 in 504 at-bats.  Granted, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville rates as one of the best pitchers' parks in the Southern League.  But just 11 HRs in 500+ Double A at-bats can't be explained away by park effects.

At least he'll hit for average in L.A., right?  Well, no.  As a player with a contact rate of about 83% and a walk rate of 10%, Loney looks like a .270 hitter at best for the time being.  And that's .270 if his minor league skills don't erode in the bigs.

Loney still hasn't hit his 22nd birthday, so he gets plenty of points in prospect rankings for holding his own at a young age.  Think Adrian Gonzalez circa 2003.  Loney has battled finger and wrist injuries in recent years.  His .438 spring average was nice, though he didn't homer in the 32 ABs.  He sounds like a good kid and he's a defensive whiz.  But in what kind of fantasy league can a no-hit rookie first baseman be an asset?   

(Watch, he hits .350 with 5 HR in April because of this post).

If you owned Nomar and you were strangely playing him at first base in a 12 team NL-only league with 5-deep benches, Loney might be the only guy out there who will actually get playing time.  So I guess that's the situation in which he has a little bit of value.   

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