Jul 7, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Christian Yelich (21) during the seventh inning after hitting a RBI double against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
#26: Christian Yelich, OF, Miami
Controlled Through: 2022
Guaranteed Dollars: $49 million
2016 ZIPS WAR: +3.8
Five year ZIPS WAR: +19.7
Last Year: Unranked
"In what was probably the biggest oversight in putting the list together a year ago, I whiffed on Yelich, and even after a rough start to the 2015 season, he still belongs in this group. His absurdly high ground ball rates mean that he’ll probably never hit for a ton of power, but avoiding hitting the ball in the air also keeps his BABIP quite high, so combined with his walks and speed, Yelich remains a very good offensive player. Toss in plus defense in a corner outfield spot, and Yelich is an excellent player, even if not exactly the prototypical slugger teams often want in a corner spot. The game is changing, though, and Yelich’s broad base of skills are valued now even as a left fielder. And the contract he signed with the Marlins this spring doesn’t hurt his value either. In exchange for long-term security, he sold his three arbitration years (2017-2019) for a total of $21 million, plus Miami bought out two free agent seasons at a total of $26 million, and got a team option for a seventh year at just $15 million to boot. Assuming that option gets picked up, Yelich is controlled for the next seven years at a total of just $62 million. Even if he never develops big time power, he’ll be worth that deal many times over, and if he does figure out how to elevate the ball eventually, he could be one of the game’s biggest bargains for years to come."
As Dave mentions, Yelich was a huge omission for him last season. Yelich was ranked as a top prospect not only for the Marlins every season, but in all of baseball.
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In 2014, Yelich posted a strong .284/.362/.402 slash line with a 116 wRC+ in 660 plate appearances. He also hit 9 home runs, swiped 21 bases, and won the Gold Glove award for left fielders. In all, Yelich amassed a 4.3 fWAR in his sophomore season.
Due to his strong showing in 2014, the Miami Marlins front office determined that Yelich was someone they needed to lock up long-term. Yelich and the Marlins came to terms on a 7-year extension worth $49.6 million over the offseason.
Unfortunately, Yelich did not get off to the best starts to begin the season, posting a .220/.284/.293 slash line with a 62 wRC+ through 134 plate appearances in April and May. This also included a 15-day stint on the DL with a back injury.
However, Yelich has dramatically improved over the past month and a half, posting a .305/.397/.435 slash line with a 134 wRC+ since June 1st. Yelich has collected 10 of hit 15 extra base hits in that span and has walked in almost 14% of his plate appearances.
If the Yelich we saw from June 1st on is the Yelich we’ll see over the course of the contract, the Miami Marlins may have collected a steal in a major way with his extension.
Next: Jose Fernandez