Prospect of the Day: D.J. LeMahieu, INF, Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs promoted infielder D.J. LeMahieu from Double-A Tennessee this week, to replace the injured Jeff Baker. Let's take a look at the former LSU Tiger and get a read on his major league future.
LeMahieu was drafted by the Cubs in the second round in 2009 out of Louisiana State, where he was the starting second baseman for the College World Series champions. He was considered one of the best pure hitters in the draft, though scouts were disappointed in his home run production, which created enough doubt to keep him out of the first round. He hit .316/.371/.368 in 38 games for Low-A Peoria after signing, showing his knack for contact hitting but with a notable lack of power. He followed that up with a similar .314/.346/.386 mark for High-A Daytona last year, hitting just two homers.
Listed at 6-4, 205, LeMahieu is big and strong enough to hit for more power, but his swing isn't tailored for home runs and scouts were uncertain how he would fare in Double-A. The results for Tennessee this year were excellent .358/.386/.492. Although he's hit just two homers, an increase in doubles production (15 so far) boosted his isolated power. He is aggressive and doesn't draw many walks, which means most of his current hitting value is tied into his batting average. So far he is a career .325 hitter in the minors. If he can stay above .300 in the majors, that will be OK, but if he sinks much below .280, his offensive value will be marginal.
LeMahieu lacks the range to play shortstop regularly, but is solid at second base and third base, with a strong arm and soft hands. In Chicago, his versatility will make him a valuable utility player at worst. He's young enough at age 22 that more power could come eventually.