2. Christian Yelich, OF
Drafted: 2010 1st round, 23rd overall from Westlake High School
Age: 21 Height: 6'4" Weight: 189 lbs.
By no fault of his own, Christian Yelich has fallen from last year's best Marlins prospect to this year's runner-up. Whereas top prospect Jose Fernandez's season was nothing short of extraordinary, Yelich merely performed outstandingly in the Florida State League. He remains the premier hitting prospect in the Miami farm system, and a future twenty home run, twenty steal outfielder.
After breaking out in 2011 with a .312/.388/.484 performance for Class-A Greensboro, the Marlins moved Yelich to high-Class A Jupiter this past season. The more spacious parks and stronger pitching of the FSL failed to hinder his progress through the minors. In fact, Yelich outperformed his previous numbers, hitting .330/.404/.519. His triple slash line translated to a 162 wRC+, making him the top hitter in the entire league.
Yelich has come a long way since his days at Westlake High School in Ventura County, California. Originally drafted as a first basemen, the Marlins capitalized on Yelich's athleticism - quickly converting him to the outfield. He proved to be a competent center fielder and above-average left fielder. He moves well in the outfield and on the base-paths. Fears that he lacked the arm strength to thrive in the outfield now appear unwarranted.
The real attraction to Yelich has always been his smooth left-handed swing. He is an excellent pure hitter, and should have no trouble batting .300 in the majors. His swing is built to the drive the ball to the outfield, which could lead to as many as 35 doubles per season. Home run power comes less naturally to Yelich, although he should hit more than enough to remain a productive batter. His double digit walk rates demonstrate an advanced plate approach that will give him excellent on-base averages.
Yelich represents a truly ideal prospect in almost every sense. He makes the most of his numerous tools in-game. His solid mechanics suggest a relatively low risk of failure. He has a preternatural feel for hitting for a 21-year-old.
The Marlins will start him at Double-A Jacksonville to begin the 2013 season, but he could easily hit his way into Triple-A or the majors by the year's end. He could also compete for a starting job in Miami by 2014. There are no players on the big league roster blocking his entry. All he needs to do is seize the opportunity.
Already standing as one of the elite prospects in baseball, Yelich has an even brighter future ahead of him as an everyday player for the Miami Marlins.