Miami Marlins Top Prospects 2012: Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna
In 2011, the Miami Marlins possessed one of the worst minor league systems in the major leagues. Matt Dominguez was supposed to be the next top prospect to make the jump after Mike Stanton, but with a sub-par 2011 and Hanley Ramirez taking over the duties at third base, he may have missed his big opportunity. This left the Marlins without a highly touted bat for the future.
Going into 2012, there are going to be few players in the lower levels of the Marlins' system that will be on everyone's radar. Two players who really started to make a name for themselves are outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
Both in single-A during the 2011 season, these two young prospects put together years that put them on the map and on top of most Marlins' top prospect lists.
Let's take a look at each of these prospects and try to get a clearer view of how they might give the Marlins one of the top OF trios in Major League Baseball.
These two players really complement each other perfectly. If you look at Christian Yelich, you get a tall, lanky player with the ability to walk, pound the ball to the gaps and hit for a .300+ average. Then you have Marcell Ozuna, who has monster power but poor plate discipline.
In 2011, both of the players played an entire season on the same team. So, any ballpark factors or league factors go out the window when comparing the two.
On pure hitting ability, Yelich has the advantage over Ozuna. He has already proven that he can hit for average with a .314 average in 545 plate appearances in A ball. Also, at 6'4" and 190 pounds, he projects to get stronger and produce bigger power numbers.
Ozuna really showed scouts what he was made of in 2011. He hit 23 balls out of the park and added another 33 extra base hits to that total with 28 doubles and 5 triples. Ozuna will strike out quite a bit and have trouble recognizing pitches occasionally, but his tremendous bat speed and control should keep his average in the decent range and put up 25+ home runs a year.
Once again these two players show different types of ability on defense. They both project to be above average defenders, but for different reasons.
Yelich has the speed and athleticism to hold down an outfield spot. His ability to take the right route to ball and his overall good instincts prove that he can be an everyday center fielder for the Miami Marlins. The biggest weakness in Yelich's defense, and probably his entire game, is his arm strength. If Yelich cannot improve upon this in the future, there is a good chance he gets moved over to left field for the long run.
On defense, Ozuna really shines. The one area where Yelich was weak, arm strength, is one of the top tools for Ozuna. His strong arm contributed to 34 outfield assists in 309 career games. With his top tier arm strength and speed, Ozuna profiles as a gold glove caliber right fielder in the future.
What is great about these two prospects is not only that they are great hitters in their own respect, but also that they can both run the bases with effectiveness.
While neither player has blazing speed, they have enough speed and instincts on the basebaths to make them a threat. In 2011, they combined for 49 stolen bases and were only caught seven times. That's good for an 87.5 percent success rate.
Yelich has a better chance of translating his base stealing ability to the major leagues. He should be able to get close to 20 stolen bases a year. For Ozuna, his speed should help him have the occasional 10+ stolen base season, but will really help him in the outfield more than anything.
Christian Yelich has a much higher ceiling between these two players. While they both still have a lot of growing to do, Yelich can put on more muscle, is younger and has a swing that should yield high average and big extra base hit numbers.
Even though Yelich is a year younger than Ozuna, he is a much more advanced hitter. With a smooth swing and gap power, he should be able to increase his power numbers while keeping a very good batting average. Yelich has the right make up to be an All-Star outfielder in Major League Baseball one day.
While there is still room for Ozuna to improve, it looks as if many people have pegged him as around a .270 hitter with solid power numbers. While this would be a great stat line to have in the majors, it is nothing that will really blow away the rest of the league. Look for Ozuna to keep up the power numbers and improve his plate discipline slightly over the next few years.
With Mike Stanton already in the Miami outfield, the addition of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna could make the trio one of the best in the major leagues.
Adding Ozuna, a potential 25+ home run hitter and gold glove candidate, will not only help on the offense but really improve the defense in the Miami outfield. Yelich will bring his speed and all star caliber play to Miami and give the Marlins a solid option to hit in between Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez.
The best case scenario would be to have Yelich and Ozuna make their debuts in late 2014 and take over the starting outfield roles in 2015. If they are able to live up to their potential and reach this goal, the Marlins 2015 lineup could be scary
Possible 2015 Lineup
1. Jose Reyes - SS - 32 years old
2. Christian Yelich - CF - 23 years old
3. Hanley Ramirez - 3B - 31 years old
4. Mike Stanton - LF - 25 years old
5. Gaby Sanchez - 1B - 32 years old
6. Marcell Ozuna - RF - 24 years old
7. J.T. Realmuto - C - 24 years old
8. Noah Perio - 2B - 23 years old
This young lineup for the Miami Marlins could prove to be one of the best of the league. With multiple All-Star and MVP candidates, no pitching staff would have an easy time dealing with the power and speed of this team. Look for Miami to contend for the National League pennant in the years 2015-2017 as veterans such as Ramirez, Reyes and Stanton continue to put up big numbers and then add in maturing top prospects to bring youth. This could be a very fun team to watch.