2015 ZiPS Projections: Christian Yelich
Christian Yelich was just a pleasure to watch play baseball in 2014.
In 2014, his first full season with the Miami Marlins, the left fielder was every bit as good as advertised when he was coming up through the team’s minor league system.
Yelich boasted a .284/.362/.402 line with nine home runs, 54 RBI, a 112 OPS+ and a 9.9 UZR. In 660 plate appearances, his first full MLB season, Yelich was worth 5.4 WAR, including 1.0 dWAR and a 1.99 range factor (best in the National League among left fielders).
Man, those are some pretty numbers.
He also won a Gold Glove last year.
With 2015 on the horizon and the Marlins prepped to compete, the team will need a repeat performance from Yelich. And so we turn to our trusty projection tool from Fangraphs, ZiPS, to see what Yelich might do in 2015.
ZiPS thinks Christian Yelich will hit .279/.356/.423 with a .346 wOBA and .350 BABIP this season in a team-best 643 PA.
Those numbers are pretty consistent with what we’ve seen in the brief year-and-a-half sample size since his call up in mid-2013.
His slugging percent is up a bit, and ZiPS likes him to hit 13 home runs next year. Yelich hit nine homers last year, and four in his roughly half-season appearance with the Marlins in 2013. Scouts have said that his power is yet to come, and he his 15 home runs in the minors in 2011, and 12 in the minors in 2012. So we could see more power from Yelich in 2015, even further solidifying the Marlins outfield as one of the best in baseball.
Reviewing the Brew
The only problem I see is a slight predicted increase in strikeouts. In 2014, Yelich struck out at a 20.8% rate. ZiPS spits out a 22.1% rate for him in 2015. Yelich is expected to bat second in the lineup behind Dee Gordon, and you want your number two hitter to make contact as often as possible. This scenario is interesting because Yelich should actually see fewer pitches to hit with the speedy Gordon on base in front of him, which could increase his walk rate.
But with Giancarlo Stanton hitting right behind him, teams will have to tread lightly.
Yelich drew walks at a 10.6% clip last year, and is expected to produce a 10.3% rate in 2015, according to ZiPS.
The lineup around him could be a deciding factor, but right now the projection systems seem to think Yelich will be largely the same hitter he was last year. The Marlins would love Yelich to do what he did last year, and he has proven to be consistent since his call up two years ago; in 2013 and 2014 he posted identical 112 OPS+, and identical 314 wOBA.
If the 2015 version of Christian Yelich matches last year’s counterpart, the Marlins will be very pleased, and the top of their lineup will once again be a strength.
Previously: 2015 ZiPS Projections: Giancarlo Stanton
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