Marlins prospect Yelich shows plenty of promise
Outfield impresses with 'sweet' swing while playing in Arizona Fall League
When he was growing up, outstanding Miami Marlins outfield prospect Christian Yelich was one base hit away from quitting baseball.
Frustrated by not being able to get a hit when he was in Little League, Yelich told his parents he wanted to quit his team and perhaps play other sports.
His parents made Yelich a deal. If he would stick it out one more game and get just one hit, they would give him $5.00.
Yelich agreed to play one more game.
After a hitless day, in his last at-bat Yelich dribbled a ball just beyond home plate. He beat it out for a single.
A baseball career was born. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Yelich.
The Florida (now Miami) Marlins chose Yelich with their first-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Given the recent trade between Miami and the Toronto Blue Jays, prospects like Christian Yelich may assume increased significance.
Yelich was a first baseman at Westlake High School in California. Instead of accepting an offer to attend the University of Miami, Yelich signed a professional baseball contract.
Yelich, a tall and thin 6-foot-4 inch, 189-pound left-handed hitter was projected as an outfielder.
I have been watching Yelich play regularly in the Arizona Fall League.
The majority of baseball personnel I have consulted feel Yelich may have the greatest projectable upside of any player in the league. The overwhelming sentiment is that Yelich may have the most advanced, most mechanically correct swing in this year's fall competition.
I totally agree with the scout's effusive praise and positive assessments.
The key word is projectable.
Yelich is far from a finished product. He has the tools required for success, but he lacks experience, repetition and consistent at-bats against increasingly better quality pitching. That will come in time.
At this early stage of his career, scouts are looking ahead to consider what type of player Yelich will become following the completion of his development. Scouting reports will include his current abilities and his future projections.
Yelich brings a host of excellent mechanics to the offensive part of his game.
His swing is as "sweet" and as close to flawless as possible. He generates excellent bat speed and makes every effort to hit the ball up the middle as a primary objective. With that goal, a player can look at the location of the pitch and make the proper adjustments to use the entire field as his eventual target.
One of the best qualities I have seen in Yelich has been his outstanding eye-hand coordination. The net result of that skill is, indeed, his ability to spray the ball to all parts of the field. Yelich does that extremely well.
Yelich thrives on making contact and not trying to hit every pitch out of the park. He keeps his hands inside on fastballs, using strong wrists and quickness to drive the ball.
Yelich has an uncanny ability to center the ball on the bat and look for pitches he can drive. For his age, his plate discipline and pitch recognition are well advanced. His discriminating eye selects those pitches that allow him to use an uncomplicated timing trigger. He keeps his swing simple, reasonably short and under control. That allows him to avoid the pitfall of trying to hit every pitch out of the park. He is well aware that hitting home runs is not yet his game.
More often than not, breaking balls become the nemesis of young hitters.
As pitchers mature and improve, frequently their repertoire expands to include more breaking balls. Hitters must make the necessary adjustments. They must learn to recognize pitches early and make a decision to swing or take the pitch.
Failure to hit breaking balls has resulted in the early exit of countless hitters.
However, unlike some players much older than him, Yelich has the ability to wait back on breaking balls, seeing and recognizing the spin and trajectory of the pitch.
One challenge that awaits resolution and refinement for Yelich is improvement against left-handed pitching.
So far this fall, he is hitting .333 in 66 at-bats against right-handed pitching and only .227 in 22 at-bats against lefties.
Those differentials are not unusual. They are not insurmountable.
Eventually, with more experience and with a conversion of his raw power to realized power, Yelich will hit his share of home runs. However, I am looking for him to become more of a gap, doubles hitter that will drive in runs from the middle of the batting order.
He may be able to hit 20 home runs a season, but his doubles and RBI rate should be the centerpiece of his success.
For long-time fans, think of Yelich as a line-drive hitting player comparable to Von Hayes.
Other than playing an occasional game as a designated hitter or appearing as a pinch runner, I have seen Yelich play center field exclusively in Arizona.
He has played 22 games in the outfield. He hasn't made an error.
While he doesn't have the strongest throwing arm, he has Major League average arm strength with sufficient carry on the ball to play adequately in the outfield.
Yelich does not have blazing speed that will allow him to quickly close on balls that are hit in front or behind him in center field. That fact, and his average arm strength lead me to believe he may project best as a left fielder. Time will tell.
This past season, Yelich played primarily at High A Jupiter. He hit .330 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI. He stole 20 bases.
Christian Yelich has turned a $5.00 challenge from his parents into the promise of an outstanding career as a professional baseball player. He has the scout's attention.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.