Miami Marlins Season Preview: Best case scenario for Christian Yelich
By Ehsan Kassim
Christian Yelich has been the model of consistency, for not just the Miami Marlins, but for major league baseball in his first two season. Due to that consistency and good play, Yelich has even earned himself a 7-year $49.5 million extension with the ballclub, with just a season and a half under his belt.
As author Dillon Murrell pointed out, his contract is extremely team friendly.
Yelich hit the league like a storm in his rookie season. He posted a .288/.370/.396 slash line with a 116 wRC+ and a 1.2 fWAR in 273 plate appearances. As aÂ rookie he posted an impressive 11% walk rate. However, a .380 BABIP, a lowly .108 ISO, and a 22% strikeout raised some questions if Yelich would be able to maintain his rookie season numbers.
His defense also graded out 5 runs below replacement in left field.Â
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Of course, Yelich was able to prove his 2013 season was no fluke, with an equally efficient, if not better 2014 season. Yelich cut his strikeout rate down to 21%, maintained a double-digit walk rate, and improved his ISO (.119) and improved his defense in left field. His .284/.362/.402 slash line and 116 wRC+ fell right into the line he posted a season before.
Yelich also stole 21 bases and became an above average defender in left field, even earning a gold glove award.
Of the three highly touted outfielders for the Miami Marlins, Christian Yelich has proven to have the most well rounded game. He truly is a 5-tool player that the Marlins should be very happy to have around for the next 7 years.
For a player that has been remarkably consistent in his lines in his first two seasons, it’s eerie how close ZiPS projected line sits compared to his 2014 and career line. Here’s a look.
ZiPS: .279/.356/.423, 119Â wRC+, 4.0Â zWAR
Career: .285/.365/.400 116 wRC+, 5.6 fWAR
2014: .284/.362/.402 116 wRC+, 4.3 fWAR
While ZiPS projects a slight dip in Yelich’s batting average and on base percentage, it does project a rise in his power numbers. A .423 slugging percentage and a .144 ISO would be vast improvements over his career .400 slugging percentage and .116 ISO. The 13 home runs would match what he has hit in his first two seasons.
ZiPS doesn’t project much of a loss in Yelich’s walk rate, but does expect an uptick from his nearly 21% strikeout rate to a 22% clip. In 2014, Yelich’s BABIP sat at .356 and ZiPS projects him to post a .350 BABIP next year.
While ZiPS does expect a better season from Yelich at the plate, it does see some regression coming from his gold glove season. Yelich graded out as 4 runs above average with his defense next season, with ZiPS projecting a season of being 3 runs above replacement.
Yelich is a player that is on the verge of super-stardom. His next step is to start hitting for more power. While he only hit 13 last season and posted an .118 ISO, it’s easy to forget that Yelich actually tied for the second best flyball distance on the team last season, when he did hit the ball in the air.
Here’s what Fishstripes Editor Michael Jong had to say about Yelich’s power last September:
"There are limitations in the data that we have available to us, and it is possible that Yelich is simply hitting a number of balls that are rolling into gaps and are being fielded deep in the field by defenders rather than true drives that have gone 290 feet on average. But the evidence of good distance on his flies and the knowledge that he has a compact, hitch-free swing are good signs for future improvement. The goal going forward will be to find a way to get him to either muscle up more or turn the angle of his level swing into something that can drive harder contact and at least yield more line drives. His role model should be Joey Votto, who similarly does not pop up (0.9 percent infield fly rate since 2011) but has hit line drives in 28 percent of batted balls."
The best case scenario for Yelich would be for him to cut his strikeout rate down below 20% as well as add some power. If he can hit 15 bombs, steal 20+ bases, and play solid defense in 2015, the Marlins are looking at a guy that could cross over into a 5-win player, maybe even more.
The Marlins and their fans are lucky to have a player like Christian Yelich along their already superstar right fielder in Giancarlo Stanton. If Marcell Ozuna can continue taking steps in that direction as well, the future of the Marlins outfield is extremely promising.