Mar 10, 2015; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna (13) takes the field before a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
"7. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins Yelich had one of the quietest 3-plus WAR seasons in baseball last year, thanks primarily to his .362 OBP built off a very strong walk rate that placed him 10th in the NL in total walks drawn. Yelich has one of the best swings in baseball to go with that outstanding plate discipline, and I do think there will be 15-plus homers per year from him as he reaches his mid-to-late 20s."
"16. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins I’d have him higher if we had him back pitching already and we knew what his stuff looked like; he was a No. 1 starter before he blew out, and he might get back there as soon as next year if he hasn’t lost anything to elbow surgery."
"17. Marcell Ozuna, CF, Miami Marlins Ozuna has an unusual profile — a very good defensive center fielder who hits for power but doesn’t get on base or have any speed — making his 4-plus WAR season in 2014 a real surprise; he ranked eighth last year among hitters who were age 24 and under, per Baseball-Reference. He also had more strikeouts than anyone on the list other than Trout and Stanton, while drawing half as many walks as either of those guys, so I don’t have the same long-term optimism for him that I do for other hitters on this list who haven’t produced the way he has to date. Power and defense in the middle of the field is a valuable combination and even if Ozuna ends up a .290 OBP guy in some years, he’ll have work as long as he can do those two things."
Keith Law is obviously high on Christian Yelich, as many of us here on the site are. And for good reason too. Yelich, even as a young player, has one of the better plate approaches in the league. He posted a 4-win season (Fangraphs WAR) in his first full season in the majors. The only thing missing from his game is the power, something I do believe (as does Law) will develop as he matures.
Law’s placement of Fernandez could receive some criticism, but I do not disagree with him. If he were healthy, I’d bet good money on Fernandez being right near the #2 spot, behind Mike Trout. Unfortunately he is not and is a major question mark this season, and maybe even next. But if he can bounce back, he’ll be near the top of this list next season. Fernandez won’t be 23 till the end of July.
Lastly, Marcell Ozuna cracks the list, but not without a caveat. Ozuna is a fine player and we all love him, but his game is a lot more volatile than his fellow outfielder on this list. Unlike Yelich, Ozuna does not have a good plate approach and solely depends on his power for his batting value. If that is somehow sapped, Ozuna is not near the All-Star level player he was last season.
Next: Szymborski's top 25 List