Coming through the Miami Marlins' minor league system, left fielder Christian Yelich wasn't expected to be a leadoff man. But with an injury to Rafael Furcal and Adeiny Hechavarria's inconsistencies in the spot, Yelich has fueled Miami's early offensive success with a high on-base percentage.
Yelich extended his career best hitting streak to 15 games in the first inning Monday against the Braves at Turner Field. Although Miami suffered a seven-game losing streak early on in Yelich's streak, his hot bat has helped the Marlins win four of their last five.
"Hitting streaks are good, but I'm definitely happier about us winning," Yelich said.
While he extended his hitting streak with a bunt single on Tuesday night, Yelich's line drive approach led to him being defined as a guy who "will bat .300 in his career." Yelich is getting on base at a .407 clip, and is batting .338. The Marlins haven't always had a balanced lineup, and Yelich's success from the left side of the plate is notable.
Yelich entered Monday tied for fourth in the Majors with 15 runs scored, tied for 17th with a .333 (24-for-72) batting average and ranks 18th with a .407 on-base percentage. In 2013, Miami's leadoff hitters batted .229 (155-for-678) with 63 runs scored.
The leadoff spot has always troubled Miami, and Yelich's success is comparable to that of Chris Coghlan in 2009. Although Miami hasn't sent him frequently, Yelich has stolen four bases and is a smart base ruuner.
Yelich has attributed his success to "doing what a leadoff guy should do." But after trying Hechavarria and several others in the spot in years past, Yelich's consistent ability to get on base has helped the Marlins offense, which appears to be more productive early.
Miami's .279 average with runners in scoring position is fourth-best in the majors, and Yelich's presence at the top of the lineup is significant because of the success the middle of the order has had. Yelich's aggressive mentality has helped the Marlins' lineup take early leads, something which was almost nonexistent in 2013.
Yelich may not be as successful throughout the course of the season, but it may not be necessary.While Manager Mike Redmond called Yelich's success in the leadoff spot "huge," the production of the lineup as a whole has led to an evident improvement in Miami's run scoring capabilities.