2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Christian Yelich
The Marlins suffer from baseball’s version of bulimia. Jeffrey Loria may be the most hated man in baseball because he can’t seem to commit to funding his team on a consistent basis. 2016 would appear to be in the binging cycle. They added Wei-Yen Chen and Edwin Jackson in free agency and added Don Mattingly as a manager. This pales in comparison to past binges, but as compared to most teams it represents considerable movement.
The most intriguing addition probably wasn’t either one of those additions. Barry Bonds has reentered baseball as the Marlins hitting coach. No matter what you may think of him personally, no one can deny that he knows a lot about the craft. In particular, he may have had the most advanced approach to hitting in the modern history of the game. The combination of Mattingly’s experience and Bonds’ skills may help a few of the Marlins take the next step in their games.
In particular, the Marlins’ outfield was thought to be the key to their season last year and all three disappointed in the their own way. Giancarlo Stanton was off to a great start but had his season cut short by injuries for the second consecutive season. Marcell Ozuna disappointed to the point where they sent him down to the minors. That left Christian Yelich. Yelich steadily produced like he had produced before. More was expected and more is still expected.
Where he has been
Fantasy owners have been waiting for Yelich’s power to arrive for two years now. In essence, his 2015 season was seen as a disappointment even though he took a step forward as a hitter. In terms of fantasy value, there is still a lot to like here. We have a guy that is essentially a 20 stolen base guy and a .300 hitter to boot. Add in a healthy walk rate for six category leagues and there is a lot to like.
Yelich is a perfect example of the flaws with relying too much on certain numbers in fantasy baseball. People love home runs and steals and they tend to downgrade a player when they are missing one or the other. There are fewer players with the ability to steal 20 bases than hit 20 home runs, so he has more value than you think.
Where he could go
The experts are not buying that Yelich will take a step forward. Ironically, they still see him having incredible luck on the batted ball front. A part of that can be attributed to a very healthy line drive rate. Of course, high line drive rates are great for your BABIP but not so good for your home run totals. This is where Bonds may come in. If he can get him to drive the ball a little, his home run totals could increase.
There is nothing wrong with Yelich’s power. His home runs per fly ball rate is certainly healthy enough. He has simply geared his game to hit line drives and ground balls. A new manager and hitting coach may end up changing that approach. If it does, then he could see a pretty dramatic increase in home runs.
A Rosy Picture
As has been noted in the past, all rosy projections are built on the past. So, we won’t see where Yelich could go in terms of power potential with these numbers. No one expects him to turn into a 30 home run threat, but 15 to 20 home runs is not completely out of the question. That coupled with 20 stolen bases makes him an intriguing fantasy prospect.