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Christian Yelich Gives Marlins Power And Speed Atop Lineup

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ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 9: Christian Yelich #21 of the Miami Marlins heads to the on-deck circle against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on August 9, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Christian Yelich (Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Christian Yelich, Outfielder, Miami Marlins

2013 season (minors): 61 G, 236 AB, .275 BA, 9 HR, 33 RBI, 5 SB, .863 OPS

2013 season (majors): 62 G, 240 AB, .288 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 10 SB, .766 OPS

Since its inception just over two decades ago, the Marlins organization has mostly relied on its prospects, for better or worse. After a failed attempt to spend in advance of their move to Miami, the Marlins have once again turned to their young talent. Jose Fernandez was a highlight on the mound in 2013, and now Christian Yelich looks to star at the plate and on the basepaths in 2014.

Drafted in the first round (23rd overall) in 2010 by the Marlins, Yelich has shown an impressive combination of power and speed throughout his young career. The next season in Single-A, Yelich hit 15 home runs and swiped 32 bags with a .871 OPS. He slowly advanced to High-A, where he managed 12 home runs, 20 steals and a .922 OPS. Last season he jumped up to Double-A at the young age of 21 and continued to display a great knack for getting on base (.365 OBP). After 49 games, the Marlins called him up.

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Yelich joined the team in July, and his presence was felt immediately; he went 2-for-4 for the struggling Marlins offense in his first game. It took a while for him to get going on the basepaths, though, finally stealing his first base two weeks later. He went on to steal nine more without getting caught once. Yelich finished the season with an impressive .341 wOBA (weighted on-base average), .288 average and .766 OPS. It was a smooth transition from Double-A to the majors.

And now, at 22, he is slated to be the Marlins’ starting left fielder and likely leadoff hitter in 2014. The left-hander obviously still has room to develop; last season he hit just .165/.245/.231 against lefties compared to .362/.444/.497 versus righties.

With a fair bit of speed to go along with a sweet swing, Yelich could surely achieve a 20-20 season (20 home runs and 20 steals) in his first full year. Should Giancarlo Stanton bounce back from a down year in 2013, the two may solidify the corner outfield spots not only this season, but for years to come.

Next up: Drew Smyly, Detroit Tigers

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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