The one concern for fantasy owners this season with speedster Christian Yelich was that his subpar supporting cast in Miami would stunt his production.
That won’t be an issue any more in the wake of Thursday’s blockbuster trade that sent Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers, just moments before the Brewers agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain.
The moves give Milwaukee four starting outfielders for only three spots with those two joining veteran Ryan Braun and 25-year-old Domingo Santana. One of those two will almost certainly now be traded.
Yelich, 26, hit .282 for the Marlins last season with 18 homers, 81 RBI, 100 runs scored and 16 stolen bases. Even more important for the Brewers, he got on base at a .373 clip and played excellent defense.
Yelich’s 2017 numbers made him a top-25 outfielder, but in a more hitter-friendly home (Miller Park ranked 8th for scoring; Marlins Park was 28th), Yelich could see his counting stats rise across the board — especially if he can get the ball in the air a little more often. (He has a 59% career ground-ball rate, compared to 22% for line drives and 19% fly balls.)
He doesn’t *need* to lift the ball more to be great, but Christian Yelich has been slowly lifting the ball more every year, and a few more degrees could help add more power to the line drives. pic.twitter.com/oh9Pnks414
In addition, the Brewers led the NL in stolen bases as a team, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Yelich surpass his career high of 21 steals.
The trade moves Yelich up slightly among outfielders into a tier that includes comparables such as Byron Buxton, Tommy Pham and A.J. Pollock. Meanwhile, it kills the value of Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton, who hit 20 homers and stole 21 bases last season — but posted an OBP of just .299.
Impact in Miami
The deal continues the Marlins’ plan to slash payroll this offseason, but the return they got for Yelich is quite impressive.
Outfielder Lewis Brinson, 23, was my No. 12 fantasy prospect entering last season — and he improved his stock by hitting .331/.400/.562 with 13 homers and 11 steals at Class AAA Colorado Springs (a hitter’s paradise).
Brinson made his MLB debut in September and should immediately be the front-runner to fill Yelich’s spot as the Marlins starting center fielder.
Isan Diaz is a shortstop who can can hit for power. He was the Brewers’ minor league player of the year in 2016 at the age of 20, but had his season at High-A Carolina ended in late July by a broken wrist. Diaz ranked 31st on my 2017 fantasy prospect list.
Outfielder Monte Harrison, 22, hit 21 home runs in the minors at Class A and followed it up with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, where he finished with a .283/.333/.604 line and a team-leading five homers.
The Marlins also received right-handed pitcher Jordan Yamamoto, who went 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate at High-A Carolina.