When the Yankees signed former Colorado Rockies player DJ LeMahieu as a free agent in 2019, I knew the name well enough to know that they had just acquired the best defensive second baseman in the league, what I couldn’t know was what an effective utility man this veteran, multi-Gold Glove winning second baseman would become.
Yankee fans didn’t know what to make of the announcement that LeMahieu would be a super-utility infielder after the mold of Chicago Cubs infielder Ben Zobrist. While LeMahieu was known as a solid defender, on offense there were doubts about what he would produce after a career spent mostly in the rarified air of Colorado.
What Yankee fans got in 2019 in LeMahieu was “Le Machine,” an offensive weapon whose consistency and productivity earned him a Silver Slugger Award.
Ryan Chichester of pinstripealley.com writes of the sort of offensive numbers LeMahieu put up in New York in his first season with the team:
His exit velocity only went up from 91.1 to 91.7 in 2019, while his strikeout and walk rates experienced similar, minor changes from 2018. Yet his xSLG skyrocketed from .424 to .529, and his BABIP from .298 to .349. The big difference, at least at first glance? LeMahieu became a machine at squaring up the ball. He posted a career-high barrel percentage of 7.5 last season, just two years after finishing with a lowly mark of 1.9. His hard hit percentage also climbed to 47.2, good for the top ten percent in all of baseball, and his best since winning the batting title in 2016. He also increased his launch angle by a full degree, further continuing a trend since the 2017 season, as LeMahieu has continued to get balls further off the ground and increase his hit probability.
LeMahieu ended up putting up a .327 BA with an .893 OPS, 26 home runs, and 102 RBIs on the season. A career year for LeMahieu with numbers that Yankee fans hope he can sustain and even improve on in 2020.
On defense, LeMahieu proved to be a plus defender with above-average fielding percentage numbers at second base (.993 FP) and first base (.992 FP), and he also provided solid defense at third base (.963 FP) as well.
In what will be his age 31 season (he’ll turn 32 in July), if there is a season, LeMahieu shouldn’t see a drastic decline in the numbers because of age. He still has several years of peak playing time ahead of him, barring injury or any other unforeseen circumstance.
With the shutdown of baseball due to the coronavirus, re-signing DJ LeMahieu seems a non-priority. Yankees fans are, however, curious to know whether LeMahieu will be offered a contract as a free agent at season’s end.
Le Machine has already begun to carve a place in Yankees history and fans are eager to see him in pinstripes for years to come. I’ve seen predictions that there will be no season in 2020 and that Yankees fans may have seen the last of DJ LeMahieu due to his impending free agency.
With his offensive consistency and defensive versatility, the Yankees will be sure to bring Le Machine back to lead off at the top of the lineup. Even without playing a game in ’19, LeMahieu’s veteran leadership, now proven in the steaming hot cauldron that is the Bronx, will be just what the Yankees need to capture a World Series.