In case you haven’t heard, the Rockies offense is pretty bad this year. After 48 games they have scored 193 total runs. It’s the worst park-adjusted offense in the National League. Even unadjusted stats don’t tell a great story. The Rockies overall slash line is .230/.305/.391 (12th/12th/10th in the NL). Not good.
To add insult to injury (or vice versa in this case), DJ LeMahieu was off to a red hot start again only to be sidelined not once, but twice by injuries. After never spending a day on the DL in his Rockies career, he is now on it for the second time this season. The Rockies have been trying to fill the gaping hole with a variety of middle infielders, but none have panned out so far. Pat Valaika has a slash line of .127/.195/.183 in 34 games around the infield and Daniel Castro has a slash line of .158/.158/.263 in 12 games at second exclusively. Not good.
It’s time to think about LeMahieu’s injury as long term. Despite all of the poor replacements available on the roster, there is one solution that they haven’t tried yet: Ryan McMahon. Yes, he’s a corner infielder by trade. Yes, he wasn’t very good in limited playing time in April. Yes, it may seem crazy.
But it might be crazy enough to work!
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Real talk: Patty Barrels is so 2017. Last year, Pat Valaika slugged .533 in 195 plate appearances. But he’s currently slugging an abysmal .183 in 78 plate appearances (which is somehow lower than his .195 on-base percentage). Daniel Castro has been the regular replacement for LeMahieu, but he isn’t playing very well either. He’s slashing .158/.158/.263 in 12 games and 38 plate appearances.
In comparison, Ryan McMahon has been slashing .233/.309/.397 in 18 games with the Albuquerque Isotopes. It’s not a great line, but it’s a lot better than what the major league guys are hitting and much better than the .180/.317/.200 that he started off the year with in the majors. He also has 25 strikeouts in 73 at bats (34% of the time). If he can cut down on his strikeouts, he’ll be a much better option at second, even if it’s only temporary. He can give the offense a youthful boost. Castro could be shifted to backup infield utility man, and it might be time for Valaika to spend some time finding himself in Albuquerque again.
Second base wouldn’t be completely new for McMahon. The Rockies have been working their prospects at different positions so that they are comfortable around the diamond. Trevor Story was drafted as a shortstop in 2011, but split time between second base, shortstop, and third base in the minor leagues. Brendan Rodgers was also drafted as a shortstop in 2015, but he is currently also spending time learning second and third base.
McMahon was drafted as a third baseman in 2013, but is blocked at that position by some guy named Nolan Arenado, so he has been working on transitioning to first base. In 2017, the Rockies also played McMahon at second base for 39 games—24 in Albuquerque and 15 in Hartford. Since being optioned to Albuquerque on May 1 of this year, he has played five games at second base. That number might increase if the Rockies feel it is necessary.
Another reason to consider McMahon as a temporary second baseman is simply that he enjoys playing the position. Maybe let a guy have fun? In an interview with Purple Row’s Eric Garcia McKinley in April, McMahon said second base was the most fun position to play.
“Turning double plays is fun. Moving around is kind of fun.” he said, “[I played] second base from when I was nine until I was twelve.” In his five games at second, McMahon has helped turn six double plays.
While he finds it to be the most fun position to play, he also finds it to be the most challenging: “Second base is the hardest one. [My] natural skill set plays better at corners. [Second base requires] more moving around, more involvement, and different footwork things that you have to practice.”
It’s worth a shot trying McMahon at second. At this point, he’s better than the other two guys who have been trying to fill in for LeMehieu. It would also give him consistent at bats, which is most likely what caused his early season slump. At the very least, it would allow him to have more fun and that fun (and hopefully successful at bats) could be contagious.