Christian Yelich is set to come off of the disabled list and return to the Marlins lineup tonight against the Pirates. A right knee contusion caused Yelich to be placed on the disabled list on August 15, retroactive to August 10. The club does not feel that a rehab assignment is necessary for their young left fielder.
The 2014 Gold Glove winner has been injury prone in 2015, only appearing in 92 games to date, and his recent trip to the disabled list was his second of the season. After a slow start to the season, where Yelich dealt with a lower back strain and looked uncomfortable at the plate, he came on strong soon after he returned from his first disabled list stint in early May. Since June 1, Yelich has posted a .304 batting average to go along with 18 RBIs and 17 extra-base hits. His current batting line is .275/.343/.393.
On the surface it may not seem as if Yelich's return to the lineup has any real effect on the rest of the order, other than making it a stronger one. But Yelich's return, along with Giancarlo Stanton's expected return in the coming weeks, will force Dan Jennings to make some tough decisions in the outfield.
Before getting injured and being placed on the disabled list, Yelich had been getting a lot of playing time in center field with Derek Dietrich in left and Ichiro in right. Yelich's injury prompted the Marlins to call up Marcell Ozuna, who the club is reportedly considering trading. So Yelich will definitely be playing almost every day for the rest of the season, but the unanswered question is who will be the odd man out for now.
Both Dietrich and Ozuna have been involved in trade rumors and both could become more valuable if they are in the lineup more often. Ozuna was seen as a centerpiece to the club coming into the season, but his struggles to make strides at the plate led to a demotion. In his nine games since being called up, Ozuna is hitting .194 and his trade value is unclear at this point. Dietrich has had a surprising season for the Fish, as he has seen increased playing time and consistently produced. Dietrich can play all over the diamond and has shown he can hit, but is unclear whether the Marlins view him as a long-term piece.
Another player that Yelich could possibly replace is a 41-year old who is 77 hits away from 3,000 in his MLB career. Ichiro has been manning the right field position almost every day since the beginning of July. With under 40 games left it is not very likely that Ichiro will get to that mark this season, even if he continued to play every day. But Ichiro is hitting .338 in the month of August and has certainly earned playing time, in which he can use to inch away to that career milestone.
The Marlins could opt to keep Yelich and Ichiro in the lineup everyday with Ozuna and Dietrich platooning. This way Ichiro has the opportunity to chip away towards 3,000 hits until the fates of Ozuna and Dietrich as Marlins are determined. If both are still around after September 1, then Jennings will have to make an even tougher decision with Stanton on his way back to the lineup and only one outfield spot open.