Mike Trout is the greatest baseball player on Planet Earth. Make no doubt about it, the modern-day reincarnation of Mickey Mantle is the front-runner to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award. With 42 home-runs and 99 runs batted-in, there are 29 games remaining for the Anaheim Angels outfielder to continue his domination of pitchers, and dismiss any doubts that he shouldn’t be named the AL’s MVP for 2019.
However, when thinking of the words “most valuable”, there is one player that stands apart from all the rest as being essential to the success of his team. Without his consistent play through a season plagued by a myriad of injuries, his team would not be sitting in first place with the second-best record in baseball.That player is none other than…drumroll please……Birmingham Brother Rice grad and two-time Michigan Gatorade High School Player of the Year, DJ LeMahieu.
The utility-man has been a mainstay in the New York Yankees’ lineup the entire season, often batting in the leadoff spot for his team’s modern-day version of “Murderer’s Row”. In the field, the former three-time Gold Glove Award winner is New York’s “Mr.Everything”, as he has seen action at first, second and third base while playing defense. The Yankees (85-47) currently sit atop the AL East, and just set a Major League Baseball record with 61 home-runs hit in the month of August.
Dubbed “The Machine” by his teammates for his incredible hitting prowess, LeMahieu is leading the team with a .331 batting average, that sits near the top of MLB’s leaderboards and has him threatening to become the first player ever to win a batting title in both the AL and NL. While playing second base for the Colorado Rockies in 2016, DJ won the NL crown after a red-hot August and September, where he hit .439 and .363 respectively to finish the season, while leading all MLB hitters with a .348 season average.
The contact hitter possesses the ability to square-up the ball and produce laser-like opposite-field line drives on command. Despite having a plate approach with intentions to control the strike zone and advance runners on-base, the hard-hitting righty is now displaying the power that scouts raved about as a prep high school star that led to him being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Louisiana State University.
The Yankees’ lineup is comprised of a bevy of power hitters including Gary Sanchez (29 HRs), Gleyber Torres (32 HRs), and 2017 AL Rookie of the Year winner Aaron Judge (16 HRs). Throughout most of the season, LeMahieu has done an impressive job of playing keep up with the others by blasting 22 homers, 27 doubles, all while driving in 87 runs for an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .909.
Despite being a quiet player who keeps his emotions in check whether his production at the plate is good or bad on any given day day, the current Yankees’ hits leader closely resembles former New York all-time great Derek Jeter while at the plate. His team-friendly backside-line-drive approach netted him a 2 year/$24 Million contract this past off-season, one which he is sure to out-perform by the time it expires.
Without DJ’s timely contributions on the field (5.1 WAR) during his first season wearing pinstripes, New York would likely not be leading it’s division or be near the top of the MLB’s Season Power Rankings. At the plate he has been reliable, consistent and dangerous. On defense, he is continuing his Gold Glove ways with nightly fielding-clinics spread out across the diamond. Preferring to let his play “speak” for itself, he has been the fuel injecting the Yankees high-powered offense all season. Most of all, like Mike Trout, his at-bats are must see television. Both of their teams would be “cellar-dwellers” without each star’s season-long impact performances. One thing is for certain; Trout and LeMahieu will both push each other to finish the season in strong fashion, and perhaps add some drama to the debate in the 2019 AL MVP race. After all, shouldn’t a playoff-bound team see their “most valuable” player garner the league’s top individual honor?
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