DENVER -- Considering the fact that he starred for LSU in baseball, it would be easy to assume (as I did initially) that Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu would have a Southern accent. Instead, he's a Midwesterner (from Michigan) through and through - he was very soft spoken. The 25 year-old has established himself this year as Colorado's primary second baseman thanks mostly to his stellar glovework and good contact skills (his 14.4% K rate ranks him second among regulars behind Nolan Arenado).
While he hasn't produced big numbers at the plate (his .281/.315/.370 batting line is good for a OPS+ of 78, which means he's been 22% worse than league average), LeMahieu has been a net positive for the Rockies. His 1.4 rWAR this year extrapolated over a full-time player's 600 plate appearance workload has him as a league average second baseman. While I think he profiles better as a super utility player due to his relative weakness at the plate, there are worse things than a cost-controlled league average second baseman.
I had the chance to speak with DJ when I was in the Rockies clubhouse a few weeks ago.
On getting sent down to begin the year
"They wanted me to play shortstop a little bit (he was the starter for AAA at the position this year) and get comfortable at that position. I played shortstop most of the time in college (though he was at second base when this photo with occasional double play partner Josh Rutledge was taken), but I hadn't really played it professionally. I feel comfortable playing the position at the big league level, but obviously we have Tulo and Jonny Herrera doing a great job there right now."
On being a tall middle infielder
"It's having a longer reach. The toughest thing is getting low, but if I can get low I can use my length to get to balls. I like to think of being tall as an advantage."
On defensive shifting
"The point of the shift is really to change the mental approach of the hitter - if you can get him thinking about something other than hitting the ball hard, change his approach, that's where the shift is the most effective."
On his newfound prowess in the running game (17 steals this year)
"From day one Walt's preached aggressiveness, especially on the basepaths, always looking for that extra base...I've been a little lucky at times, but that's been my focus to get better at that part of the game."
On the differences between Walt Weiss and Jim Tracy as managers
"Being more aggressive obviously has been Walt's big focus. He's a good manager and he was a very good player. If I had something middle infield-wise, I'd obviously ask Tulo, but I use Walt as well."
On what's been different this year from last year offensively
"It's been pretty much the same for me - I don't like to change a lot. I think last year was good for me because Tracy and Carney (Lansford) both helped me with my swing. I was kind of staying inside everything, wouldn't pull the ball very much. They helped me to realize that I can hit for power, that I can drive the ball into the gaps. This year, again, it's being aggressive and being who you are as a hitter. Dante's not here to change anyone - he's here to make sure that we stay true to who we are as hitters."
On hitting second on a regular basis
"It's obviously where I want to be - I don't take anything for granted. I try to take the approach, wherever I am in the lineup, to try to get on base for the 3-4-5-6 guys because they can do the damage - so especially in the two hole I just try to get on base any way I can...If Dexter's on base sometimes I try to give him a couple of chances to steal a bag, obviously my goal is to know the situation and the score - I want to get on base or move the runners into scoring position for the guys behind me."
Thanks to DJ for his time!
Carlos Gonzalez was activated from the DL yesterday, but he is still unclear if he's going to get any at-bats for the rest of this year. Also in the notes of the above articles, the Rockies brought up three pitchers (Manny Corpas, Mitchell Boggs, and Collin McHugh) and Ryan Wheeler.
Tyler Chatwood expects to make his next start after leaving with a thumb bruise when he tried to grab a liner with his bare hand. One final note - Weiss indicated that he wants to use Adam Ottavino as a one inning set-up man.
If you're a Baseball Prospectus subscriber, you can watch this video interview (and the accompanying article) with one of the Rockies' top pitching prospects in Eddie Butler.
Brian Vanderbeek, who writes about the High A affiliate Modesto Nuts, has a great article about the type of players the Rockies are drafting. The Nuts open their California League playoff series tonight.
More from Purple Row:
- Carlos Gonzalez the latest Rockies star mired in injury hell
- Monday Rockpile: Rockies need to regain September swagger
- Rock Mining, Week 21: Appreciating Todd Helton
- Wednesday Pebble Report: Roy Oswalt throws 5⅔ scoreless innings
- Dodgers 7, Rockies 4: Rockies can't overcome miscues in loss to Dodgers