James Anthony Loney (born May 7 1984 in Houston, Texas) is a first baseman in Major League Baseball who plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Loney had a stellar prep career (varsity 2000-2002) at Elkins High School
in Missouri City, Texas
(suburban Houston). He hit .509 his senior season and also accumulated a record of 9-1 with a 1.80 earned run average
as a pitcher, striking out 106 batters in 54 innings. After his senior year in 2002, he was named Player of the Year by Houston 5A Baseball
, the Houston Chronicle
and the Texas High School Writers Association, and was the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year (Texas). Prior to the draft, Baseball America
tabbed him as the best pure hitter in the draft, as having the second-best professional debut by a high school player selected and the second-closest high school player to reaching the major leagues.
Loney was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round (#19 overall). He had signed with Baylor University to play college baseball, but opted to sign a pro contract.
Minor league career
Loney began his professional career with the Great Falls Dodgers
, where he hit .371 and was named the top prospect in the Pioneer League
by Baseball America.
Loney appeared in 125 games for Single-A Vero Beach in 2003 and hit .276 with 7 homers and 46 RBI.
In 2004, Loney was tabbed as the fourth-best prospect in the Arizona Fall League and made the All-Prospect Team voted on by league managers and coaches. However, he had an injury plagued season at Double-A Jacksonville.
In 2005, Loney led the Southern League Champion Jacksonville Suns in hits and total bases.
In 2006, Loney led all of baseball, major and minor leagues, with a .380 average while playing for the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. He was named the Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year, and was chosen as first-team AAA All-Star First Baseman by Baseball America.
Major league career
Loney made his major league debut with the Dodgers on April 4
, against the Atlanta Braves
. He received his opportunity when starting Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra
was placed on the disabled list, freeing up a roster spot for Loney. Dodgers advance scout James Gwaltney likens his potential to that of Dodger great Gil Hodges
Loney collected a single in his first major league at bat, against John Smoltz.
On September 28, in a game against the Colorado Rockies, Loney went 4 for 5 with 9 runs batted in, which tied a 56-year Dodgers franchise record for RBI in a single game, held by Gil Hodges. Loney accomplished this feat in only his 46th game with the team while still under 100 total at bats in his major league career. Because of his success in 2006 with both Los Angeles and AAA Las Vegas, he was named to the Dodgers' playoff roster. Filling in for an injured Garciaparra in game three against the New York Mets in the National League Division Series, Loney went 3-for-4 with three RBI.
Despite Loney's stellar 2006 season, the Dodgers chose to re-sign Garciaparra for 2007-08, meaning Loney had to start the season back at AAA Las Vegas. On June 10
, , Loney was recalled to Los Angeles. His hot hitting forced the Dodgers to insert him into the starting line up and move Garciaparra from first base to third base.
Loney was named the National League Rookie of the Month for September and finished sixth in the voting for the 2007 NL Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award.
Loney was a unanimous selection to the 2007 Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team. The selection was the result of the 49th annual Topps balloting of major league managers.
Loney began the season as the starting first baseman and had a 15-game hitting streak. He finished the season batting .289 with 13 HR and 90 RBI. Loney led the team in runs batted in consistently for the entire year.
On October 1, 2008, in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Loney hit a grand slam off of Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster as the Dodgers went on to win the game 7-2.