If you just looked at batting average, you might wonder why South Bend Cubs manager Buddy Bailey keeps penciling freshly-minted 22-year-old DJ Artis into the leadoff spot for the South Bend Cubs. Though he’s up to .257 as of post time, his average was 30 points lower less than a week ago. But Artis is an on-base machine with a .449 OBP and a 147 wRC+ that says he’s 47% better than average a producing runs.
As such, the left-handed hitting outfielder has been a spark plug at the top of South Bend’s lineup to begin the 2019 campaign. Artis fell to the Cubs in the seventh round of the 2018 draft out of Liberty University, but MLB Pipeline ranked him a Top 50 draft prospect last spring,
Artis got off to a poor start and slipped quite a bit, rebounding late in the year to hit .292 with a .458 OBP. Those numbers were a bit off from his freshman and sophomore tallies where he hit .350/.500 and .359/.532, respectively. Hence the slippage down to the seventh round.
At 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, we’re not talking about a masher, though he will hit the occasional home run. Artis is a guy who can hit more for average and get on base using his speed and a high walk rate. He looks to be pull-happy so far this year, but that will change over time because he is going to need to use the whole field to be successful in the leadoff spot.
He’s swiped three bags so far and will probably steal more once it warms up. Add in the fact he doesn’t strike out much and he’s almost the perfect guy to start the lineup off every game. One thing that make Artis so successful as a walk machine is his crouch. Just look at how his stance really makes the strike zone disappear.
After limited action last season, Artis is already making things happen in his first full year as a pro. Whether it’s sparking the offense tracking down balls in left or center, he’s already pretty fun to watch on both sides of the ball. But things should really get interesting when the weather in the Midwest League improves and he really gets warmed up.