DENVER — In the baseball realm, DJ LeMahieu’s measurements are coveted. But the Rockies second basemen doesn’t use them like you’d think.
At 6-foot-4, power should seemingly dominate his offensive approach. Of the major league’s top-10 home-run leaders, only Giancarlo Stanton (6-foot-6) towers above LeMahieu’s lofty stature.
With his size, it would seem LeMahieu is out of position at second base. That spot is usually reserved for short speedsters, not the guy who’s one of the tallest on the Rockies roster.
But the former LSU standout proved both those statements false this season in producing an All-Star first half, which will culminate Tuesday night when LeMahieu is announced as the National League’s starting second basemen at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.
“It was so far off the radar,” said LeMahieu, who was named an All-Star Game starter Saturday after Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon suffered a dislocated thumb. “I mean, not until really the last two or three weeks did I even consider possibly making it.”
After spending a good portion of the first half at or near the top of the NL batting leader board, LeMahieu heads to Cincinnati with a .311 average that ranks third among major league second basemen.
His 98 hits co-leads the Rockies. And with more than 70 games to play this season, LeMahieu is seven RBIs away from matching his career-high (42).
“I always thought the offense was coming with DJ,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. “Such a great feel for the game and such a great ability to make adjustments. He tightened some things up this winter offensively, and you could tell right away in spring training.
“He’s having a heck of a year, and he’s an All-Star for good reason.”
LeMahieu’s first step toward that was ridding himself of a power-hitting mentality.
That temptation is still there, but LeMahieu has quashed it enough to where he’s satisfied with who is he is at the plate. He isn’t launching home runs out of Coors Field with predictable regularity, but his evolution as a contact hitter has blossomed tremendously in 2015.
“This year is the first year I’ve totally dedicated myself to not trying to hit for power and not trying to be a player I’m not,” LeMahieu said.
A similar approach has occurred on the defensive side.
Although he earned a Gold Glove at second base last season, that position was hardly a permanent home. Similar to his time at LSU, LeMahieu dipped his glove into multiple positional pools throughout the minor leagues.
In 2009, 25 of his 35 games were spent at shortstop. The following year, that spot was where he saw the least amount of action. By the time the Cubs traded him to Colorado in December 2011, LeMahieu’s infield future had little clarity.
“We felt like he was maybe going to be a guy that was a utility guy up here,” Weiss said. “We wanted to make sure he could play all three (second base, third base and shortstop). We felt like he could. We’d seen him do that before.”
But the Rockies didn’t cave on LeMahieu’s frame and finally implemented him as their everyday second baseman in May 2013. LeMahieu is the majors’ tallest player at that position, but his range and efficiency haven’t wavered.
In four seasons with the Rockies, he’s made just 13 errors at second base and has a .995 fielding percentage this year.
“I think the hardest part was people actually thinking I could play second at 6-foot-4,” LeMahieu said. But I think once people saw me over there, they saw I could probably handle it.”
In Cincinnati, he’ll join teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado, marking the first time Colorado has had three All-Star infielders in the same season.
Among the roll of baseball superstars, LeMahieu is far from out of place.
“DJ, I’m happy for him,” Tulowitzki said. “He’s come a long way.”
LSU ALL STARS
DJ LeMahieu is the ninth former LSU baseball player to be selected for the MLB All-Star Game. On Tuesday night, he will become the sixth ex-LSU player to start the game:
1944: Second baseman Connie Ryan, Boston Braves (starter)
1951-52, 1954: Shortstop Alvin Dark, New York Giants (starter in 1951 and ’54)
1960: First baseman Joe Bill Adcock, Milwaukee Braves (starter)
1993-97: Outfielder Albert Belle, Cleveland Indians/Chicago White Sox (starter in 1995 and ’96)
1999: Right-handed pitcher Paul Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies
2008, 2010-11: Right-handed pitcher Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants
2009: Outfielder Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
2009: Second baseman Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays (starter)
2015: Second baseman DJ LeMahieu Colorado Rockies (slated to start)