Christian Yelich has been praised for his ability to hit major league pitching consistently at such a young age, but Miami's left fielder was recognized for his defense on Tuesday night. Yelich became the first Marlins outfielder to win a Rawlings Gold Glove, and was a member of one of the best outfields in baseball in 2014.
Fox Sports Florida's Christina De Nicola notes that Yelich's .996 fielding percentage was the best in Marlins history, and that he made just one error while posting six assists.
"Honestly, I don't even know," Yelich said. "It doesn't really feel real. I didn't really believe it until today. I was making sure it wasn't some sick joke. It's a really cool feeling, and I'm going to enjoy it."
In 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, Yelich led all NL left fielders with a .996 fielding percentage, which set a club record. He committed just one error and ranked second with six assists. According to BaseballReference.com, Yelich recorded the best range factor per nine innings for an NL left fielder (1.99) and the second-most defensive runs saved (15). His first experience playing in the outfield came in pro ball.
Yelich, who has also played center field in his short professional career, was a first round draft pick in 2010. He batted .284/.362/.402 to complement nine home runs and 54 RBIs last season. He is seen as a two or three hitter, but was slotted into the leadoff spot after Rafael Furcal saw time in just nine games.
As he progressed through the Marlins' minor league system, Yelich was known to be able to cover a significant amount of ground. Playing left field in Marlins Park, though, didn't appear to be a challenge for Yelich. Yelich also refuses to allow temporary offensive struggles to affect his defense, which is why he is thought of highly within the organization.
Yelich appeared in 144 games for the Marlins, and was solid defensively when he was in the lineup. Although he evolved as one of the Marlins' more consistent offensive and defensive options, Yelich was bothered by back discomfort and did spent time on the 15-day disabled list at one point.
After winning the award in 2014, Yelich became the sixth Marlin to win a Gold Glove. Charles Johnson, Derrek Lee, Luis Castillo, Mike Lowell, and Mark Buehrle have also won the award as Marlins.
Giancarlo Stanton and Adeiny Hechavarria were also finalists in right field and at shortstop, respectively.
With Yelich, Stanton, and Marcell Ozuna rounding out Miami's outfield, the Marlins had one of the youngest but most productive outfields in all of baseball. In his first full major league season, Yelich proved he can play left field at a plus level.