There has been a lot of negative news swirling around the Colorado Rockies the past couple weeks. For a moment, lets take a break from that and look at one of the positives to this point in the season.
Second baseman DJ LeMahieu is in the final year of his contract and, while there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding whether or not he will return to the Rockies in 2019, he is certainly making a strong case for general manager Jeff Bridich to bring him back.
A former batting champ, LeMahieu is used to hitting for a good average and he is currently clipping a solid .285. But what stands out about DJ’s 2018 campaign is his sudden power surge. On their face, six home runs and 20 RBI might not look like much, but LeMahieu has never hit more than 11 home runs in a season. Last year, he hit 8. Unless something unforeseen happens, LeMahieu is well on his way to eclipse those marks.
What makes the Gold Glover’s 2018 power numbers so stunning is the decent chunk of time he has missed on the DL. LeMahieu has played in only 41 games, roughly a quarter of a full season. If you take that into account and transfer his current numbers into a 162-game season, they become very intriguing.
Had he not missed so much time, LeMahieu would be on pace to hit about 24 home runs and drive in around 80 RBI. Both of those would be career-highs.
Those numbers should carry even more weight considering DJ has spent most of the year hitting leadoff. Anywhere near 80 RBI from the top spot in the order is ridiculous.
Recently, I addressed whether or not Trevor Story could wind up at his first All-Star Game this summer. Since then, Story has had a couple of big games to boost his bid to be the NL’s starting shortstop. His average has climbed to just a tick below .260, his 14 home runs are tied for third in the NL and his 47 RBI are tied for second, just one RBI back from first. Both the 14 home runs and 47 RBI lead NL shortstops by a mile.
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Story has put up an all-star first half, and third baseman Nolan Arenado is a perennial All-Star … but does LeMahieu’s power surge merit his third career all-star game selection? Could the Rockies potentially end up sending three of their four infielders to D.C. for the summer classic?
LeMahieu’s numbers are good, but he certainly has some tough competition. Cincinatti’s Scooter Genett, Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies, and Chicago’s Javier Baez have put up stellar numbers thus far and all three deserve to be All-Stars.
As unbelievable as it might sound, Gennett could potentially wind up in a fight for a triple crown by the time the season is over. Right now, he is hitting .340 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI.
In case you had begun to think there was a new influx of second basemen named “Scooter Gennett,” this is in fact the same Scooter Gennett the Milwaukee Brewers designated for assignment a year ago.
In Atlanta, Albies’ 15 homers and 36 RBI have been a big part of his team’s unexpectedly good first half. Baez has also had a surprising start to 2018 with 14 home runs and 46 RBI. The biggest problem for both Albies and Baez is that they are hitting in the .250s.
If he had played enough games to qualify, DJ’s batting average would be third among NL second basemen.
In the end, LeMahieu’s injury-plagued first half is going to hurt his All-Star chances this summer, but he is still one of the best second basemen in the NL. While he is a great hitter, the thing that is always going to make LeMahieu stand out from the crowd is his defense.
Last season, he led NL second basemen in fielding percentage. Currently, his .994 fielding percentage in 2018 is well ahead of Gennett, Albies, and Baez.
Chances are, while fans may be clamoring about the All-Star Game, it is probably the farthest thing from DJ’s mind. He is undoubtedly focussed on turning his team’s recent struggles around. But if there was one thing that could potentially threaten to distract from the game, it would be his impending free agency this offseason.