Miami Marlins Position Review: Left Field Grades


Christian Yelich – A-

What do Starling Marte, Justin Upton, Nelson Cruz, and Matt Holiday all have in common? All 4 of those left fielders finished below the 22-year-old Christian Yelich in WAR according to Yelich’s 2014 season has validated the hype that surrounded the young hitter in the minor leagues. In his first full season in the major leagues, Yelich posted a 4.3 WAR, good for 2nd overall on the Marlins and 3rd for all left fielders in MLB. Have I mentioned yet that he is only 22!

Yelich spent the season hitting out of position in the leadoff spot, largely because the Marlins didn’t have anybody else capable of doing it. In my opinion, Yelich would be better served in the two-hole, where he can put his excellent knowledge of the strike zone and ability to hit to all parts of the field to good use. Instead he was forced to adjust his game, not a small task for a 22-year-old. 

Yelich’s stats were solid as he posted a .284/.362/.402 slash line while compiling 94 runs, 54 RBI’s, 9 home runs, and 21 stolen bases. The only unfortunate thing for Yelich was that he lost his qualification as rookie last year, as he certainly would have been in the Rookie of the Year running this year.

One of Christian’s strengths was his ability to make solid contact. Many people would view his stunningly high BABIP (.356) and claim that he got rather lucky this season, but compared to last years BABIP, it is entirely reasonable to say he had a down year when it comes to baseballs finding holes. His entire career he has posted high BABIP numbers,and much of that can be attributed to a line drive rate (21.2%) higher than his fly ball rate (17.8%). The bottom line, when you are hitting 61% of your balls on the ground and posting a .356 BABIP, you are ripping it.

Sep 7, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich (21) steals second base as Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19) is late with the tag in the sixth inning at Marlins Ballpark. The Marlins won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Hard hits weren’t Christian’s only weapon this season. He was able to become a very effective bunter. When the Marlins added coach Brett Butler this offseason, they were hoping to improve on base running and bunting. Yelich improved in both. He became a dangerous bunter, with sneaky, smooth speed and excellent hands. He had a 50% success rate on bunts for hits.

The one knock on Yelich could be in the power department, but I would advise against it. 9 home runs is not bad for a 22-year-old, and he is sure to hit more as he gets older and stronger. Look for Yelich to put on 15 more pounds in the next 3-4 years, and I believe he will be a 25 HR/25 SB guy before he is 25.

Even if he doesn’t grow into a bona-fide power hitter, He still has great value. He reminds me of Wade Boggs, and I believe he will exceed a .300 batting average multiple times during his career. That belief is born, not just from what I have seen him do, but what his splits say. Most lefties, particularly 22-year-old’s, struggle with left-handed pitching. Yelich? He only hit .317 this season against lefties. Thats right, he actually hit better against lefties than righties (.273).

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To see a hitter this advanced at this stage of his career is a rare treat. Even highly touted prospects such as Xander Bogaerts and Jurickson Profar have gone through more growing pains than the lesser known Yelich.

All of this talk about his bat is great, but defensively he is almost as good. He provides a more than adequate arm, the ability to play all 3 outfield positions, and that speed… He gets to way more fly balls and line drives than he should. He takes excellent angles toward the baseball, and has an excellent glove.

If it sounds like I have a bit of a man crush on Yelich, it’s because I do. I think he is just getting started and has the potential to be an all star outfielder sooner rather than later.

Sep 26, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Reed Johnson (5) hits a rbi double during the fifth inning against the Washington Nationals in game two of a baseball doubleheader at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Reed Johnson – D+

Quick, without looking, take a guess at how old Reed Johnson is? If you said 37, I am impressed. Johnson was a late bloomer, cracking the Toronto Blue Jays squad in 2003 at the ripe old age of 26. 11 years later, it is obvious Reed is on the last legs of his career. Johnson has made a living, and not a bad one, I might add, by playing the 4th outfielder role. Unfortunately for Miami, Reed, was a shell of his former self, which wasn’t exactly an all-star to begin with.

The journeyman posted career lows in batting average and OBP (.235/.266/.348). One area that Reed did not struggle? Avoiding walks. Amazingly Johnson posted a 0.5% walk rate and yes, that number is under 1% and it is correct. In order to accomplish that feat, he walked 1 time in 201 plate appearances. I guess when you are a pinch hitter, you don’t go up looking for a walk.

Unfortunately, Miami may have been better off if he had left the bat on his shoulder. He managed only 2 HR’s, 25 RBI’s, and 24 R’s on the year. He posted a WAR of -0.7, another disappointment.

Things weren’t all bad for Johnson. He was one of the more successful Marlins with runners in scoring position. As a matter of fact, the more runners you could get on base for Reed, the better he would perform. He hit .317 with runners in scoring position, and .276 with runners on base. That is why Reed had a job in Miami for the entirety of the 2014 season.

Unfortunately for Johnson, I don’t see him adding a second year to his Marlins career, and it might be time to hang up the cleats for good.

What do you think about these grades? Let us know in the comments below!