LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

LeMahieu ignores naysayers, keeps improving

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu added the 2016 National League batting title to his honors that include a Rockies Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013 and a Rawlings Gold Glove in 2014. Still, he's guaranteed to show up on any list of underrated players.

But he never cared about that before and doesn't intend to start now. The 2017 MLB Network listing of Top 10 Second Basemen Right Now rated him ninth.

"It's really not up to me, what people think about me," LeMahieu said. "I just try to do my thing. That's more important to me than getting a ton of recognition."

LeMahieu hit .348 last season -- a 47-point jump over the previous year. At 28, LeMahieu continues to grow.

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"He was a rangy second baseman that had good baseball instincts, but where he is now compared to where he was a few years ago, you can say there's marked improvement in all phases," Rockies manager Bud Black said.

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LeMahieu, who is in the second year of a two-year contract worth $7.8 million and eligible for his final arbitration year next year, realizes the Rockies' six straight sub-.500 seasons have something to do with his not being a household name. But rather than envy players who are better-known, LeMahieu watches, competes and borrows.

"In these last few years, there are so many good second basemen," LeMahieu said. "I love seeing them play. I feel like I'm always looking over to see who the second baseman is on the other team, and seeing how he makes plays.

"I watched a ton of video on [the Astros' Jose] Altuve and [the Red Sox's Dustin] Pedroia and [the Tigers' Ian] Kinsler. They're all very different hitters, and all those guys can play defense, and that's what I enjoy."

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LeMahieu graduated high school from Brother Rice in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and spent the offseason training in Michigan. He even looked up Kinsler.

"He is an extremely hard worker," LeMahieu said. "We didn't get to work out, but just getting a chance to talk to him made me want to work harder."

LeMahieu said it's a positive challenge to keep up with the rest of the Rockies' strong offense.

Last season, LeMahieu had career-bests in on-base percentage (.416) and slugging percentage (.495). For 102 of his 146 games, he hit second behind center fielder Charlie Blackmon, who also had a career year (.324/.381/.552). The pair figure to lead a lineup that also possesses proven power in Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story.

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"It's one of the best spots to hit, the two-hole," LeMahieu said. "Just watching Charlie and his at-bats, how he approaches certain pitchers -- we talk about it before the game, but seeing him put our scouting reports into action gives me something to feed off, and I feel I have to match his intensity at the plate."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.