Miami Marlins Season Preview: Worst case scenario for Christian Yelich


We continue our Miami Marlins season preview series with a look at a worst case scenario for left fielder Christian Yelich‘s 2015 season. My co-editor Ehsan Kassim on Tuesday presented his best case scenario for the 23-year-old third-year player, who is now a very rich man.

Yelich, as Kassim points out, has been the definition of consistency in his season-and-a-half at the major league level. Seriously, take a look at his slash lines:

2013 (273 PA): .288/.370/.396, .341 wOBA, 116 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR

2014 (660 PA): .284/.362/.402, .341 wOBA, 116 wRC+, 4.3 fWAR

There was no question whether Yelich’s bat was major league-ready in the summer of 2013 when the lowly Marlins said “the heck with it” and called him and Jake Marisnick up to help spark a depressingly inept offense. At the time, Yelich’s defense was still developing, as he graded out with a poor -5.0 Def according to Fangraphs, despite a solid 8.5 Off rating (or 1.5 oWAR, per Baseball Reference). Had we seen a full 2013 season from Yelich, it’s likely he would have totaled closer to three wins above replacement, when you factor in his steadily improving play in the field and maturing, if raw, plate prowess.

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He also struck out 24.2% of the time in 2013, but he reduced that mark to 20.8% his sophomore season. Yelich has maintained a steady walk rate of 10.8% — actually a few points down in 2014, surprising for a more advanced and presumably patient hitter who was no longer a rookie — which showed his savvy to make plenty of contact thanks to that lovely swing of his. His 2014 BABIP was .356, compared to .380 his rookie year. A 24-point drop in that department could make a hitter’s slash line look drastically different, but not Yelich. He was virtually the same hitter both years in spite of a theoretical slight batted ball deficiency last season. He’s just that good.

This winter, we discussed the 2015 ZiPS projections for Miami’s left fielder, and they sure are pretty:

ZiPS: .279/.356/.423, .345 wOBA, .119 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR

Those numbers are, as you will notice, quite similar to his career line to this point. The OBP is projected to take a slight dip but the power numbers ascend by a nudge. Perhaps the element of Dee Gordon batting in front of him — Yelich hit leadoff most of last season — will change Yelich’s approach at the plate. Maybe he’ll take more pitches while waiting for Gordon to take off for second base, opening the door for more hitters’ counts, thus the potential for more home runs and extra base hits. Who knows. What we do know is with Christian Yelich, as a hitter, what you see is what you get. And the Miami Marlins were smart enough to catch that early and lock up their young star for seven more years.

By now, you may have noticed I haven’t shifted this article to the negative aspect of Yelich’s game. This is, after all, the “worst case scenario for Christian Yelich,” right? The wonderful thing about Yelich is that, assuming he stays healthy, he is going to be the same smooth swinger and plus-defender that Marlins fans have become accustomed to watching patrol the left field depths of Marlins Park.

The worst case scenario for Yelich would be if Michael Hill has one too many martinis at the Clevelander and decides to give Ichiro Suzuki the left field job. A healthy Yelich, whose declining strikeout rate and steadily-improving power will only make him more valuable with time, looks like about as close to a sure thing as they come.

That Marlins outfield, man. It’something else.

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