DJ LeMahieu received his first of what is likely many Rawlings Gold Glove Awards prior to Friday’s home opener. DJ's outstanding defense has finally started to gain the attention it deserves, as MLB.com's Thomas Harding wrote following the Coors Field opener. The Rockies’ second baseman finished the game 3-for-4, reaching base on three singles and a fielding error by Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro. This would be considered an uncharacteristically good day at the plate for the soft-hitting LeMahieu, but that is hardly to say he doesn’t pull his weight on this roster.
DJ finished 2014 with a .267/.315/.348 line over 149 games. Of course, a Colorado Rockie slugging under .400 is completely unforgivable, blah blah Coors Field, blah blah. But LeMahieu seems to have a handle on what his role on this team is; by bottoming out a lineup of Dickerson, Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Morneau, it’s really not on DJ to be putting balls in the stands. LeMahieu’s eighth or ninth hole duties call for him to advance anyone that may be on base or turn the order over again. To a respectable degree last year, he managed that: to the tune of a 51 percent productive out percentage and 97 strikeouts -- that’s one more than Charlie Blackmon and 39 fewer than Drew Stubbs.
LeMahieu’s bread and butter will always be his outstanding defensive abilities. That’s where he really comes to bat for this team. Ha! If we consider the 42 RBI LeMahieu managed in 2014 in addition to the 17 defensive runs saved he was worth, it turns out DJ’s contributions weren’t so light-handed. I love the Rdrs stat for a team that turned out entirely too many losses after scoring 10-plus runs. Plus, with this infield, it’s just nice to look at:
This lineup is going to hit, but the pitching staff is notoriously generous with their earned runs. If the Rockies can score, but more importantly keep the opposing team from doing so with keen defense, they won’t be as reliant on a lights-out rotation.
At least steady DJ LeMahieu can be expected to put together another season much like the one he had last year. If that means batting .270 from the bottom of the lineup and playing second base like a big league shortstop, that’s not anything to worry about. But DJ has the potential to build on what he’s done. LeMahieu emphasized speed training in the offseason, which could add to stolen base success as well as his batting totals. DJ swiped 10 bags for the Rockies last season, but was caught just as often.
In four games this year, he’s already got one. LeMahieu was a popular pick in the Purple Row Staff survey as a prime candidate for positive regression. He’s been a tough out so far, in the season’s small sample size, and though his .417 average isn’t expected to hold, there’s no reason to believe LeMahieu can’t hit .285, a jump fewer than 10 hits off of what he did a year ago.
He’s already smart on the basepath and lays a mean bunt; there’s really no reason to believe his bat will hinder a great 2015 season, but it could very well add to it.