There is no such thing as an automatic out, but for the first three years of his career, Jose Lobaton was fairly close to it. In 253 career plate appearances coming into the season Lobaton was hitting a lowly .202, with 2 HR's, 15 RBI's, 18 runs and a 59:28 K:BB ratio. His combined WAR over parts of three seasons: 0.1. Essentially, he was a AAA-player forced into action in the majors.
We've seen an entirely different player this year, with Lobaton showing great improvement across the board. His baseline statistics are impressive, as he's hitting .270 with 4 HR's, 20 RBI's, 25 runs, with a 31-15 K:BB ratio in 177 plate appearances. Yes- in 76 fewer appearances, Lobo has surpassed his career totals in homers, RBI's, and runs, while hitting nearly 70 points higher. His WAR of 0.9 is a huge step forward. In fact, outside of a slightly worse BB% this season (8.5% vs. 10% career-rate), Lobaton has basically been an entirely new player.
After grounding into 9 double-plays through his first three seasons, he's only bounced into one this season, a sign that he's gotten the ball in the air more.
The numbers prove it. His ground ball percentage stands at a career-low of 43.4%. Those ground balls have turned into line-drives, as his 21.7% LD% is higher than his career average (19.7%).
Some power has come with the increased line-drives. His HR/FB ratio of 8.9% is, once again, higher than his previous career-high of 4.5%. While he'll never have 25-homer pop, if the Rays can get 10-15 homers a year from Lobaton, they'll have experienced a major upgrade over what they've dealt with the past few seasons.
The Rays entered action today as baseball's sixth-best scoring offense, and while Lobaton hasn't exactly raked, his marked improvement has been indicative of the team's overall success so far this season.