The Sugar Land Skeeters have begun crafting the team they hope will help them defend the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball championship.
The reigning champions recently announced their first signings of the season, highlighted by 11-year Major League veteran James Loney, who won a state championship while playing baseball for Elkins High School.
Also signed are former Major League catcher Cody Stanley and returning Skeeters Josh Prince, catcher/infielder Albert Cordero, infielder Alvaro Rondon, and outfielder Tony Thomas.
Loney, who will serve as a player-coach, will be a part of the Skeeters pitching staff, as well as making appearances in the outfield and infield.
“Words cannot express how ecstatic I am to come back home and be a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters,” Loney said. “I am proud to be associated with a first-class organization and appreciate the opportunity to have an impact in this community. I am thrilled the Skeeters are such an integral part of Sugar Land, and excited to get started on defending the Atlantic League championship title!”
Loney, 34, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round (19th overall) of the 2002 MLB Draft out of Elkins High School. He spent seven of his 11 Major League seasons with the Dodgers, also appearing with the Boston Red Sox (2012), Tampa Bay Rays (2013-15) and New York Mets (2016).
Over his Major League career, Loney appeared in 1,443 games and had a .284 batting average, .336 on-base percentage, and .410 slugging percentage to go with 108 home runs and 669 RBIs.
The Houston native led the National League with 160 games played at first base in 2010 and led the American League in games played at the position in 2014 with the Rays (152 games). He finished fifth in the National League in 2010 with 41 doubles. He ranked second in the American League in singles in 2014 (138) and finished in the top 10 in the National League in 2008 (118, 8th) and 2009 (122, 9th).
Loney ranks eighth all-time in Dodgers history in games played at first base (896).
“Any time you can sign a player of this magnitude, especially one who’s from the Houston area, it’s a really big deal,” said Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia. “It’s a great fit for the Skeeters organization and I also think it’s a great fit for him. It’s really the best of both worlds and we’re incredibly excited to have him on board.”
Stanley, 30, made his Major League debut in 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals, going 4-for-10 with two runs in three RBIs through nine games played, accounting for the entirety of his MLB service time.
The Cardinals drafted Stanley in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He last appeared professionally in 2015 with Triple-A Memphis.
Over six professional seasons, Stanley has hit .269/.321/.406 with 48 home runs and 295 RBIs through 540 games. Stanley has made 373 of his career appearances at catcher, also making five appearances in left field.
Stanley was selected as a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star in 2011 with Single-A Quad Cities and as a Texas League Mid-Season All-Star in 2014 with Double-A Springfield. He was also selected as an Appalachian Rookie League Post-Season All-Star in 2010 with Danville and as a Texas League Post-Season All-Star in 2014 with Double-A Springfield.
Former Major Leaguer Josh Prince is returning to the Skeeters as a player-coach for the 2019 season. Along with his playing duties, Prince, who’s set to appear in his 11th professional season, will serve as the team’s hitting coach.
Prince, 30, returns to the Skeeters after appearing with the team during its run to the 2016 Atlantic League Championship and in 2017 as well. He spent the 2018 campaign at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Arizona Diamondbacks system, hitting a combined .282/.385/.407 with six home runs, 37 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 104 games.
“First, I want to thank Pete (Incaviglia), the Zlotnik’s, and all the Skeeters staff for giving me this opportunity to further my career,” Prince said. “I have always known I wanted to coach and this is an amazing place to start that journey. These fans are as good as it gets, always supporting our team. I can’t wait to play in front of them again and return to Texas!”
Prince holds the Skeeters all-time career record for stolen bases (79) and ranks among the top 10 in several other categories, including walks (152, 2nd), runs (133, 4th), games played (218, 6th) and hits (197, 9th). The native of Lake Charles, La., set the Skeeters single-season record with 55 stolen bases in 2017. Prince owns a .250 average with 16 home runs and 77 RBIs in his tenure with the Skeeters. He first appeared in the Atlantic League in 2015 with the Bridgeport Bluefish.
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Prince in the third round of 2009 MLB Draft out of Tulane University, where he tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 48 stolen bases as a junior in 2009. He also spent a collegiate season at the University of Texas.
Prince made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2013, appearing in eight games and going 1-for-8 with a double and three runs scored. He owns a career .254 average and .705 OPS to go 38 home runs, 250 RBIs and 341 stolen bases through 1,072 games at the professional level. He’s made 335 of his professional appearances at shortstop, 269 at second base and 235 at center field, while also appearing at third base, left field and right field.
Cordero, 29, is set to appear in his fourth straight season with the Skeeters. He set professional career highs in 2018 with 12 home runs and 63 RBIs, while appearing at catcher, third base, second base and first base, and was selected to the 2018 Atlantic League All-Star Game. The native of Caracas, Venezuela, is fourth all time in games played (277), fourth in doubles (52), tied for fourth in hits (264) and tied for sixth in RBIs (112) in Skeeters history. He was also named the Skeeters Community Man of the Year in 2017. Cordero first appeared at the professional level in 2008 within the New York Mets Minor League system and has reached as high as Double-A at the affiliated level. He has a career slash line of .253/.299/.355 with 45 home runs and 300 RBIs in 807 career games at the professional level.
Rondon, 28, is slated to appear in his second season with the Skeeters and his sixth as a professional. Rondon played in a team-high 109 games at shortstop last season and was named the Skeeters’ 2018 Community Man of the Year. The native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, was third in the Atlantic League in 2018 with 38 stolen bases, which were also the third-most in a single season in Skeeters history. Over his last three seasons, all spent at the independent level, Rondon has stolen a combined 118 bases in 294 games. Rondon, who played collegiately at Texas A&M International, first appeared at the professional level in 2014 within the Minor League system of the Arizona Diamondbacks, reaching as high as Triple-A.
Thomas, 32, played in six games for the Skeeters in the 2018 regular season after spending a bulk of the year with the Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association. But the former Florida State standout played an integral role in the postseason, including a walk-off grand slam in Game 5 of the Freedom Division Championship Series against the Lancaster Barnstormers on Sept. 23, sending the Skeeters to the Atlantic League Championship Series. Thomas’ 11 RBIs in the 2018 playoffs were the most in a single postseason in Skeeters history.
The Chicago Cubs selected Thomas in the third round of 2007 MLB Draft. Along with the Cubs, he’s spent time in the Minor League systems of the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox, reaching as high as Triple-A.