D.J. LeMahieu Spins the Hits (and other notes from 6/8/15)

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Move over Afrojack, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, and Deadmau5.  There’s a hot new French D.J. in town based out of Denver, Colorado by the name of LeMahieu, and he’s here to drop some sick beats and the illest remixes that will bring all the ladies to the club.

Actually, not really.  D.J. LeMahieu is not really a music D.J.  Instead, he is the second baseman for the Colorado Rockies who is most well known for his glove work on the defensive side of the ball, but this season he has been laying down the beat by spinning the hits game after game.  His latest “mash-up,” if you will, came on Monday when he went 3 for 5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored, and he is now slashing .342/.394/.439 with 3 HR, 28 RBI, 27 R, and 5 SB.

LeMahieu began the season hitting 8th for the Rockies, but has since worked his way up to be the regular 2-hole hitter.  The move up in the order likely has something to do with the fact that the Rockies have had to deal with injuries to Corey Dickerson and Justin Morneau, and slumping performances from Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but LeMahieu has surely earned it.

LeMahieu’s .342 AVG is being supported by a high .403 BABIP, but he did come into the season with a career BABIP over .330 and he does call Coors Field his home.  So while the BABIP over .400 is not sustainable, he still should be able to post a higher than average clip, especially given the way that he is hitting line drives at 29.2% of the time for 4th highest mark in the league, and how he is avoiding soft contact with the ball at 10.4% for the 10th lowest in the league.  He is one of four players to appear in the top 10 in each of those categories (Brandon BeltJason Kipnis, and Freddie Freeman are the others).

What is also encouraging about LeMahieu is that even though his home stadium is Coors Field in the thin air of Denver, he has been hitting well on the road as well despite being a much better home hitter in his previous Major League seasons.  So far he has posted a home triple slash line of .358/.414/.472 and a very respectable road line of .322/.371/.400.  Also in his favor is that he has traditionally been better against same-handed pitching, which is right-handed for him, and since the majority of the pitchers in the league are right-handed, he has a bit of an edge there.  He is hitting .356/.396/.483 versus righties this season.  Furthermore, LeMahieu is spraying the ball to all parts of the field, which displays his maturation as a hitter and gives even more reason to believe that he can remain a .300 hitter for the first time in his career.  His pull % has dipped from 28.1% last year to 19.6% this year.

However, something that has been a bit disappointing from LeMahieu in his time in the Majors is his lack of power.  Whenever I watch him play, he looks like a pretty monstrous sized player, especially for a second baseman, and I wonder how he does not have better power at the plate.  He stands at 6’4″ and 205 lbs. so he’s surely got a big frame that I would imagine can have more power.  LeMahieu will soon be 27 and with that size I think that he should have some double digit HR seasons in him as he enters his prime.  Maybe it won’t be this year, maybe it will, but it’s quite the wonder how his previous season high at any professional level has only been 5 HR.

In the speed department, LeMahieu has the upside to reach 20 SB.  In 2013, he stole 8 bases at AAA in 33 games and he stole 18 bases at the Major League level in 109 games, so the speed is there.  However, last year in a full season playing 149 games for the Rockies, he only swiped 10 bags.  But getting more hits like he has been this year to be on base more should open up more opportunities for him to steal bases.  Maybe he doesn’t get to 20, but 15 is well within reach.

So with all this being said, I feel that LeMahieu is an underrated fantasy option, which feels a bit weird to say for any Rockies hitter because usually the Rockies hitters get more than enough love for the favorable home park advantage.  But since LeMahieu has not done much in his previous three seasons with the Rockies, not a whole lot was expected of him in 2015.  But with these improvements that he is showing, he needs to be given much better fantasy consideration, especially if he continues to hit second in the Rockies lineup.  Hitting second for the Rockies makes his run potential very high without limiting his RBI and SB chances a whole lot.  It really is the ideal spot for him.  Oh, and of course the Coors Field factor doesn’t hurt his cause.

For the rest of the season from June 9 onward, I will give him the line of:  .295 AVG, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 54 R, 10 SB, 67 K, 27 BB in 380 AB

Let’s check out the rest of Monday’s action!

Jimmy Nelson – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K with the W.  Nelson battled through a rain delay to blank the Pirates for 6 innings.  Nelson has been very inconsistent this season, leaving fantasy owners clueless as to what will happen next.  But the Pirates are a team that he’s faced three times now and his only two scoreless outings of the season have come against them.  So that’s just something to stow away in the matchup bank in our lil’ noggins.  Nelson is now 3-6 with a 4.05 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 67 K/28 BB in 73.1 IP.

Giancarlo Stanton – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 K.  Surprisingly, Stanton left Coors Field this past weekend with only 1 HR.  So he was back in business with an opposite field Mike drop shot up in Toronto on Monday for his 19th HR of the season to put him in a tie for the Major League lead with Bryce Harper.  Stanton remains the odds on favorite to take down the HR crown this season.

Justin Bour – 0 for 4, 2 K.  After I recommended Bour in “Marlins First Baseman Bour is Not a Bore,” he had a HR in the game right afterward, but now he is in the midst of a 1 for 18 slump where he has struck out 7 times and he failed to take advantage of Coors Field this past weekend.  It has brought his batting average down to .301 and it’s likely going to keep falling as I said in the feature on Bour.  So don’t worry, this was to be expected, but he still does possess solid power and makes for a fine plug and play against righties.  And he’s also more suitable for leagues with daily roster changes because he will probably sit versus most lefties.

Josh Donaldson – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R.  DONG-aldson.  It was his first dong in over a week but he’s still maintaining a healthy batting line.  Such a sexy player.

Danny Valencia – 2 for 5, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 K.  Valencia is now hitting .425 in 40 AB versus lefties this season and in his career he has a .335 AVG against lefties.  Talk about a lefty killer.  In that potent Toronto lineup, Valencia always makes a fine and very cheap play in DFS.

Zack Cozart – 3 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R.  Cozart had fallen into a pretty big slump in mid-May, but he has now homered in 2 of the last 3 games.  I said a month ago that Cozart would be unlikely to sustain top 5 shortstop production, but that he could be good for a .275 AVG with 15 HR and 10 SB.  He’s now at a .261 AVG with 8 HR and 3 SB, so he’s fallen into an area where he is on pace toward that projection.

Billy Hamilton – 1 for 4, 1 R, 2 SB, 1 K.  Hamilton continues to hit 9th in the order for the Reds, but he’s been on a little bit of a stolen base binge with 8 SB in the last 11 games, including stealing 3rd and then home off Cole Hamels on Monday.  He now has a league leading 25 SB on the season, but unfortunately also in the last 11 games, his batting average has stayed static in the .220’s.  A player with his speed really needs to hit it on the ground more to use his speed to his advantage, but with just a 1.18 ground ball/fly ball ratio that ranks 91st in the league, it is pretty easy to see that he’s been incapable of doing so.  He reminds me of Willie “Mays” Hayes from Major League.  Manager Bryan Price should make him do push-ups any time that he hits the ball in the air.

Cameron Maybin – 2 for 5, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB.  Maybin now has multi-hit games in 8 of his last 10 games to improve his AVG from .256 to .299 and he’s also chipped in 4 SB during that time.  He really seems to be figuring things out at the plate finally.  He is posting line drive and opposite field rates that are well above his career rates, so this AVG territory that he is in is not looking like too big of a fluke for the career .250 hitter.  I wouldn’t expect him to hit near .300 by season’s end, but he is looking like a good bet to beat his career best .264 AVG.  He’s showing some nice maturation at 28 years old and should be owned in most leagues for this maturation to go along with his power and speed blend.

Shelby Miller – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.  Miller suffered his worst start of the season in his last outing at Arizona, but there’s nothing like a good ol’ trip back home to help get him back on track.  We’ll keep hearing how regression is coming for Miller, which it will undoubtedly.  But as I have previously pointed out in “Shelby Miller and Jake Odorizzi, CUT It Out!”  Miller is a transformed pitcher this season with a couple of new pitches that have turned him into a ground ball pitcher with the ability to induce weak contact.  So I’ll say it again, I wouldn’t expect a huge implosion, but regression should push his ERA upwards of 3.00 eventually unless he starts missing some more bats.  He now is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 57 K/25 BB in 78.1 IP.

Carlos Correa – 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K.  Correa debuted in the 6-spot in the Astros lineup on Monday, but it was a tough assignment against Chris Sale.  However, Correa earned his first Major League hit and RBI off Sale on an infield single and he also made a very nice defensive play.  This kid is legit and you can check out “Houston’s Astronomical Promotion: Carlos Correa” for more information on the 20-year old super prospect.

Lance McCullers – 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K with the L.  McCullers now has not walked a batter in his last two starts and he is showing to be a great young pitcher currently boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and 36 K/6 BB in 31 IP.  With double digit K/9 at nearly every stop in the Minors, we knew the strikeouts would probably be there for the 21-year old hurler, but the 1.74 BB/9 that he has right now is unexpected given his rate of 4.49 BB/9 in his career in the Minors.  I still would expect him to struggle with his control in some starts, but he is looking like he is a keeper for the Astros.

Vincent Velasquez – The 23-year old Velasquez is another Astros pitching prospect who is skipping AAA to join the Astros rotation to start on Wednesday.  At AA in 5 starts, Velasquez had a 1.37 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 37 K/9 BB in 26.1 IP.  So he definitely has the type of fantasy potential that we like to see in a pitcher and he has shown better control in the Minors than McCullers.  If the Astros didn’t believe that Velasquez could be an impact pitcher for them, they would not be calling him up.  So the mere fact that he is the third top prospect of theirs that has been called up this season shows that the Astros have a lot of faith in him (and McCullers and Correa) and that he is worthy of our fantasy consideration.  The Astros are going for it all this year and I like it.

Avisail Garcia – 1 for 2, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R.  Now this is the power from Garcia that I asked for a couple weeks ago.  Garcia has now homered in 3 of the last 4 games to bring his season total to 7 and he also has a nice .296 AVG to go with it.  20 HR is within reach for Garcia as he looks to complete his first full season with no significant time missed.

Chris Sale – 8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 14 K with the W.  Sale now has 49 K in his last 4 starts and we all have to know why he’s had such a great turnaround to his season by now, right?  Well, in case you didn’t know, I documented a month ago that he was using his fastball a lot more in place of his slider and that I believed an increase in his slider usage would yield much better results.  Well, over the last few starts he has definitely had a big spike in his slider usage and the same happened in this start on Monday.  I like to think that Sale has been reading The Backwards K and learned from it.  He is now 6-2 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 93 K/17 BB in 74 IP.  He is the American League’s answer to Clayton Kershaw.

Kendrys Morales – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  Morales has cooled a bit from his hot start, but he is still hitting .292 with 7 HR and 41 RBI.  He is on the verge of surpassing last season’s HR and RBI total, and he is currently 3rd in the AL in RBI.  If he doesn’t go breaking his leg on a walkoff grand slam it looks like Morales is in for his best season since 2009.

Matt Holliday – 0 for 1.  Holliday left the game with a strained quad which is surely going to sideline him for at least a few weeks.  Tough blow for the Cardinals.  Jon JayRandal Grichuk, and Peter Bourjos all stand to benefit from Holliday’s absence.

John Lackey – 4 IP, 12 H, 8 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the L.  I think it’s safe to say that Lackey does not like pitching at Coor’s Field.  The shel-LACKEY-ing brought his ERA up to 3.74 and WHIP to 1.29, which are numbers I would expect him to end the season around.

Troy Tulowitzki – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB.  I wrote about Tulo on May 15 in “Tulo Hitting Too Low” and documented his struggles in his hitting, with lack of AVG and power as well as a hideous strikeout to walk ratio.  He continued to struggle in the next couple weeks as his AVG got down to .266 with 2 HR in 43 games.  However, since a 4 for 4 with 2 HR day on May 29 at Philadelphia, Tulo is on an 8-game hitting streak (17 for 33) with 5 HR and 14 RBI, to bring his season AVG up to .310.  Finally, I think it is safe to say that Tulo is out of his slump and should produce rock solid numbers the rest of the way for as long as he avoids the DL.  But obviously avoiding the DL has been an issue for him in his career.

Nolan Arenado – 1 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K.  With 14 HR in 58 games, Arenado is well on pace to smash his career best of 18 HR that he set in 111 games played last season.  The sky is the limit for this talented player.

Ben Paulsen – 3 for 5, 3 R, 1 K.  Paulsen continues to rake as he fills in for Justin Morneau at first base and collects some time in the outfield in the absence of Corey Dickerson.  Dickerson is playing in extended Spring Training games, but Morneau remains out indefinitely.  So Paulsen should carry some value for at least a little while longer, if not for the rest of the season.

Rubby De La Rosa – 5 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 4 K with the L.  After his beat down in his last start by the hands of the Braves, I said this would be another ugly spot for De La Rosa going on the road against the Dodgers who kill right-handed pitching.  And ugly it was.  With a 3.41 SIERA and 3.38 xFIP, De La Rosa certainly deserves better than a 5.84 ERA.  But clearly he still has work to do to improve.  He’s got a date at San Francisco next, which should be a decent spot for him to get back on track.

Andre Ethier – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R.  Ethier currently sports a .225 ISO, which would be his highest mark since 2009 when he hit 31 HR.  Ethier won’t be hitting that many HR again though since he won’t play full time, but if he keeps bashing righties the way he is then a 20 HR season could be in the cards.

Mike Bolsinger – 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K with the W.  Bolsinger had put up a couple of duds in his last two starts on the road at St. Louis and then Colorado, but he delivered some nice home cooking against his former team the Diamondbacks and he now has a 1.01 ERA and 0.68 WHIP at home this season.  His next start will come on the road at San Diego, but that still figures to be a good spot for him against a team that he utterly dominated earlier this season.  Regression is bound to come for Bolsinger, especially as the league sees more of him, but for now he is serving the Dodgers well.

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2 thoughts on “D.J. LeMahieu Spins the Hits (and other notes from 6/8/15)

  1. Pingback: C. Heston From the NRA to the NHA? (and other notes from 6/9/15) | The Backwards K

  2. Pingback: Giancarlo Needs a Hand (and other notes from 6/27/15) | The Backwards K

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