Christian Yelich is the best hitting prospect the Miami Marlins have and he might be less than one year away from the majors. His sweet swing and mature plate approach have made the Marlins look like they got a steal with the twenty-third pick of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. In 2012, Christian Yelich proved himself as an outfielder and continued to flaunt his ability to hit for average. However, he suffered a couple of injuries throughout the season which prevented him from earning a promotion to Double-A prior to the conclusion of the 2012 minor league season.
Christian Yelich missed the first fifteen or so days of the minor league season with both a sprained wrist and a bruised elbow from being hit by a pitch. Yelich is not the biggest or strongest kid, so injuries early on in his career do not surprise me. However, once he fills into his frame a little more, Yelich should be able to stay off the DL more easily. He also missed time in early June due to a concussion obtained when taking a knee to the helmet while sliding into third base. Time till tell as to whether these injuries were flukes or if Yelich will be a player who will struggle to stay healthy.
When Yelich was healthy, he dominated Florida State League pitching. Playing for the Marlins' High-A Jupiter affiliate, Yelich hit .330/.404/.519 in 103 games. Yelich led the FSL in slugging percentage, wRC+, wOBA, and wRAA, despite being just twenty years old. Yelich's power wasn't expected to develop this early, but it is tremendous news that it has.
For a while now, the consensus has been that Christian Yelich has the upside of a player who hits .300 with twenty homers and twenty stolen bases per season. In the FSL, Yelich hit .330 with twelve homers and twenty stolen bases. If you translate that into 162 games, Yelich would have hit eighteen homers and stole thirty bases. That's very impressive to be putting up numbers that you are projected to have down the road as just a twenty year old.
Defensively, Yelich proved two things in 2012. First, he proved that he is more than just a first baseman. With the current state of the majors, having a first baseman that can hit .300 with 20/20 is a lot less valuable than an outfielder that can do the same. By proving that he can play in the outfield, Yelich will be in a better situation for success and he will likely make more money over the course of his career.
The second thing Christian Yelich proved on defense over the course of the 2012 season is that he is not a center fielder. Yelich's athleticism is obvious (especially when he steals bases) but he has neither the arm strength nor the instincts to play center field. The Marlins tried desperately in 2012 to turn Yelich into a center fielder, starting him in ninety-six games out in center field. However, Yelich did not impress the way the Marlins wanted. Yelich will most likely be a corner outfielder long-term, which is not that bad of a thing if you look at where Miami will have depth in the next couple years.
The 2012 season was a huge year for Christian Yelich. He emerged as one of the top forty prospects in baseball, and he left no doubt he was the best player on the field no matter who Jupiter played. In 2013, Yelich will likely start in Double-A, where it will be easier for pitchers to expose his weaknesses. However, if Yelich continues to progress at the rate he did in 2012, he should be in Miami by the end of next season.