by Dave De Wit
Last summer nobody watched the Miami Marlins. Nobody. Whether you lived across the country from Marlins Park or across the street, you ignored the baseball team inside. Meanwhile, while everyone was trying their best to ignore what happened in front of that painfully bright green outfield wall, the Marlins put a nice young prospect out there for the entire world to continue not seeing.
Now, thanks to nobody watching, hype for Christian Yelich doesn’t even exist. Not too many people are talking about a guy who was the 13th best prospect in the game last year according to Baseball America and has shown his power/speed potential during an impressive cup of coffee in the major leagues.
Yelich does everything well. He offers a good amount of power, speed, a nice average, and an impressive ability to take walks.
In his minor league career he has averaged roughly 18 homers and 29 steals per 650 plate appearances with a .313 batting average and a .387 on-base percentage (10.7 BB%). In his brief 62 game stint in the majors last year, Yelich hit four homers, stole ten bases (without getting caught) and hit .288 with a .370 OBP (11.4 BB%).
If you prorate those major-league numbers over a full season, he had a 10 homer/26 steal year. Keep in mind: only 14 players in the MLB stole more than 26 bases last year, and just eight of them hit 10 or more homers.
What’s more exciting than his power/speed combo is his potential. Scouts have raved about what he can do with the stick.
Last summer, Yelich got praise from the Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus, saying he had the “purest swing in the minors” and that he is a “very, very good hitter.” He even quoted a front office source who told him, “Yelich was the top bat in the minors; even better than [Oscar] Taveras.” Most scouting reports list him as a future 20-20 guy who could hold a .280+ batting average.
However, there are some concerns with the young Marlin. According to Keith Law’s midseason report last year, Yelich has struggled against left-handed pitching. Law said, “[H]is inability to hit left-handers isn’t going away at all – hitting .182 against southpaws this season.”
Another concern is that he plays for a horrible team. Miami finished dead last in runs scored in 2013 by a sizeable margin, and with only the additions of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee and Rafael Furcal, it doesn’t look like the offense will be much better next year. This poor offense will definitely hamper Yelich’s overall runs scored and RBI numbers.
There is a silver lining in being a Marlin, though. Thanks to their horrible personnel, Yelich is primed to be a starting outfielder next year and looks like he will be batting 3rd for the Fish (as he did down the stretch last year), and will have super star Giancarlo Stanton batting behind him. If he can stick at the heart of the order, it would certainly help buoy his counting stats up.
With regular playing time, Christian Yelich can easily put up 10-15 homers and collect 20-25 steals all while providing a good batting average and OBP. Think of him as a slightly poorer man’s version of Shin-Soo Choo (with a tad more speed and a little less power) whose youth and playing environment have made him an afterthought in mixed leagues and a great value to target late in drafts.
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