While the Miami Marlins and their fans were busy campaigning for third baseman Casey McGehee to be an All-Star, they may have forgotten that they had arguably a more deserving player should have had a role in that game. In fact, that player is quickly, yet silently, blossoming into the next star player for the Marlins young franchise.
That player would be Christian Yelich.
So far on the season, going into last night’s game, Yelich owned a .280/.361/.422 slash line with a .347 wOBA and a 2.8 WAR. Both those marks are the second best on the team, behind Giancarlo Stanton. He has been the most valuable base runner on the Marlins, earning 2 runs above replacement on the base paths.In left field, Yelich also plays above average defense, mostly due to his speed and athleticism.
Every time Yelich comes to the plate, you know you are going to get a strong at bat out of him. His keen eye keeps him chasing pitches early in the count and before a pitcher knows it, he’s sitting in a 3-ball count, in danger of losing the lead-off man to a walk. Yelich has walked in over 11% of his plate appearances, but has also struggled with strikeouts at times, striking out 21% of the time. This should also improve as he matures.
Although the power has come in spurts this season, Yelich has shown flashes of what he can do down the road, as his body continues to fill out. On the season, Yelich has 8 home runs, 6 triples, and 13 doubles. If he can continue to give the occasional pop out of the lead-off spot, he has the chance to give his pitcher an early advantage right out of the gate.
One place scouts and experts worried Yelich would struggle early on in his career would be in his platoon splits, as he labored against lefties throughout the minors. Here’s a quick look at his splits:
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Yelich rates pretty well against other left fielders with his statistics on the season as well. Yelich is tied with Brett Gardner for third in baseball and leads the National League with his 2.8 WAR. His .347 wOBA is fourth, his OBP and average are third among all qualified left fielders. Yelich only trails Starling Marte (21) in stolen bases (13).
Keep in mind that Yelich is only 22 and in his second season. Most of the leaders in left field are veteran players that have been around for a while, including Seth Smith, Matt Holliday, and Justin Upton.
Yelich is just tipping the iceberg on his potential. The Miami Marlins would be wise this off-season not only to try to extend Giancarlo Stanton, but also to try and work out an extension with Yelich before he and his agent figure out they can price themselves out of the Marlins budget.