Prospect watch: Marlins’ Christian Yelich picks up right where he left off

Top prospect Christian Yelich may play his way into the Miami Marlins lineup before the season is over. (Tony Farlow/

The then-Florida Marlins had to be in disbelief when it was their turn to select with the 23rd pick in the 2010 amateur draft. I am sure they all looked at each other, looked at the draft board, looked at their wish lists, looked at the draft board again and then one of them casually walked up to Commissioner Bud Selig and asked a question as to not embarrass themselves.

“Is Christian Yelich really still available?”

They watched as the Red Sox took Kolbrin Vitek at 20, then the Twins grabbed Alex Wimmers at 21, and when the Rangers selected Kellin Deglan at 22, they all probably checked to see if Yelich was indeed a senior and even eligible for the draft.

He was, and the now Miami Marlins are making a lot of other teams face-palm themselves just two years later.

Coming out of Westlake HS in California, Yelich was rated as the best prep left-handing hitter, and the best in the entire draft not named Bryce Harper. As a senior, he hit .451 with 14 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 25 RBI and was 28-for-30 in stolen base attempts. He drew 30 walks and only struck out nine times. He had a .609 on-base percentage and his OPS was 1.609. He stood 6’-4”, and had one of the sweetest swings out there, reminiscent of Will Clark.

With a commitment to play for the University of Miami (FL) in his back pocket, the then-stingy Marlins agreed on a $1.7MM signing bonus, about $500,000 over slot for the selection. They made sure he would stay in Miami, just not as a Hurricane.

He played in 12 games in 2010 split between rookie ball and class-A Greensboro. The 18-year-old hit .362 with three doubles, a triple and five RBI. He then began his first full professional season in 2011 at Greensboro where he would make a name as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and someone with a flair for the dramatic.

Over 122 games, he hit .312 with 32 doubles, 15 home runs, 77 RBI, 32 stolen bases and an .871 OPS. He showed an advanced approach at the plate for his age, drawing 55 walks for a .388 OBP. He also showed the before-mentioned flair for the dramatic with this walk-off home run in game one of the South Atlantic League finals. It was his first professional playoff game, and that home run would propel the Grasshoppers to the Sally League title.

Yelich would end up being named the Florida Marlins Minor League Player of the Year for 2011.

He entered this season rated number 41 on Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list and the Marlins number-one prospect overall. He also got a bump in competition, opening the year at class-A advanced Jupiter of the Florida League. A sore elbow caused him to miss the first week of action, but he has been making up for that lost time by starting his season on an incredible tear.

Through his first seven games, he has gone 12-for-24 (.500) with nine runs scored, two doubles, two triples, two home runs and five RBI. He has already drawn seven walks and has an OPS of 1.613. In a doubleheader on April 21, he went 4-for-7 and hit for the cycle. He then added a three-run bomb on April 22 and is in the proverbial “zone” right now.

The Marlins put Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton on the fast-track to the majors when he made his major league debut at the age of 20. If Yelich keeps hitting the way he is, he could soon join Stanton in the outfield. A prototypical number-two hitter right now because of his ability to get on base, speed and overall natural hitting abilities, more power should come as he matures, making him a middle-of-the-lineup run producer.

A lineup with Jose Reyes, Yelich, Hanley Ramirez and Stanton hitting at the top would be among the best in the majors. It would also cause a lot more face-palms around baseball.

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