DENVER -- "I don't think there is any doubt that DJ is an All-Star."
Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss is confident in his second baseman -- as he should be. DJ LeMahieu rightfully won a Gold Glove award last season after posting the best UZR and Defensive Runs Saved figures of any second baseman in the National League.
What LeMahieu possessed on defense, though, he certainly lacked on offense. He finished 2014 with a punchless OPS+ of just 76 in 538 plate appearances. Despite emerging as one of the best defensive infielders in baseball, he still had a massive hole in his game.
LeMahieu has gone a long way to correct that this year. Entering Tuesday, LeMahieu boasts a 101 OPS+, meaning he's a league-average hitter. That kind of production from a player who was the best defensive second baseman in the NL last season is a godsend for Colorado.
That isn't lost on the team's skipper.
"He continues to be a really tough out at the plate," Weiss said on Sunday. "He gets big hits -- the two-out RBI hit was a big hit at the time -- and he's doing a great job."
"He needs to be in the All-Star Game," Weiss added.
LeMahieu is a much-improved hitter, using his altered approach at the plate -- one that he talked about prior to the start of the season -- to lead the National League in opposite-field hits as of Sunday afternoon. Hitting the ball hard the other way has helped him take advantage of a .374 batting average on balls in play that may come down some, but should remain high.
However, with all of the good things LeMahieu is doing for the Rockies this season, he's still in a different tier than the top second basemen in the NL.
The main culprit for that, believe it or not, is that LeMahieu has taken a step back defensively. He enters the Rockies' upcoming series against the Arizona Diamondbacks fourth in the NL in UZR and sixth in Defensive Runs Saved. LeMahieu has been well above average in those areas, but Jace Peterson, Addison Russell and Dee Gordon have simply been better.
And speaking of Gordon -- regardless of what LeMahieu or anyone else at the position in the NL has accomplished, there's no beating the Miami Marlins' second baseman, who has been phenomenal throughout the first half. Gordon has already accumulated 3.1 WAR in 2015 as a result of league-leading defense and superb, if not a bit lucky, offense.
Gordon owns a .356/.377/.425 line, good for a 122 OPS+. His BABIP, which sits at an astronomical .421, is going to come down, but -- like that of LeMahieu -- probably not as much as you might think. Gordon's speed is almost unrivaled; his 19 infield hits are more than double what any other second baseman in the NL has produced. He's been lucky, yes, but he's also done quite a bit to earn his offensive numbers.
Yes, it's more than a bit silly that LeMahieu is behind the likes of Brandon Phillips and Yunel Escobar -- a full-time third baseman -- on the latest NL All-Star ballot. Rockies catcher Nick Hundley agrees.
"The All-Star voting is a joke," Hundley quipped. "It's a popularity contest, but it's the system that we have. Hopefully the best players play in the game, and if not, hopefully we can revamp it."
But that's the thing: Gordon, Kolten Wong and Joe Panik deserve to be ranked ahead of LeMahieu. It's hard to argue otherwise. All three have compiled more WAR, mostly because they've performed well on offense, and LeMahieu hasn't quite been good enough defensively to make up for it.
That's not to say that things won't be different by the time 2015 is in the books. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the improvement in LeMahieu's offensive game is very real. And the defense? LeMahieu has already shown an impressive ability to adjust to the Rockies' heavy shifting tendencies, which may have costed him in the form of defensive metrics during the first couple months of the season. He's certainly passing the eye test, anyway.
"I'd like to see the statcast of the ground he covered today," Hundley said on Sunday. "The ball that Aramis Ramirez hit when we were shifted, he ran almost 90 feet and still got it. He's unbelievable."
LeMahieu is only 26 and has improved every year since becoming the Rockies' full-time second baseman. He's trending in the right direction as he approaches his prime years. That has left one current Colorado star very impressed.
"DJ is a good player, man," Troy Tulowitzki said. "More than anything, he's a professional. He's someone I enjoy taking the field with. He's a pleasure to play with and hopefully I can play with him for a long time."
At the rate he's going, LeMahieu is going to be an All-Star soon, and could very well have the chance to replicate that feat on several other occasions throughout the next decade. This just isn't the year.