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July 23, 2013

The Call-Up

Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick

by Jason Parks, Bret Sayre and Paul Sporer

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The Situation: The Miami Marlins have been allergic to offensive production in 2013, developing rashes and hives whenever runs cross the plate, which has only happened 309 times in 97 games. For perspective, the Astros have similar run allergies but have managed to score 59 more runs, and I’m pretty sure I could get at-bats on that team. Looking for some offensive epinephrine, the farm is being raided and top prospects Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick are getting the call to the majors, a youth infusion that should provide a necessary boost to a struggling lineup.

Background: Christian Yelich was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of high school powerhouse Westlake High School. He was viewed by many as one of the better high school bats in the entire draft. He wasted little time proving that to be the case, showing impressive bat-to-ball skills in his initial debut. Yelich has continued to rake all the way up the chain, pushing himself up prospect lists each year, plateauing as a top 10 prospect in the game on the Baseball Prospectus Mid-Season Top 50.

Jake Marisnick was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, viewed as a five-tool talent with the potential to emerge as an impact major league player. His professional debut was hit and miss on the field, but the scouting reports touted his potential, and Marisnick rewarded the hype with a breakout 2011 campaign, hitting .320 in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League as a 20-year-old. Marisnick was firmly on the prospect map, but a depressed 2012 season and subsequent trade to the Marlins dropped his stock and encouraged some in the industry to discount his status. Fully healthy and acclimating to his new org, Marisnick returned to form in 2013, and positioned himself as a top 50 prospect in the game and a realistic option at the highest level.

The Scouting: Christian Yelich has one of the purest swings in the minors, a short and powerful stroke despite the arm length. Yelich creates well above average bat speed, and as he continues to mature and learns the nuances of power, his doubles will start to turn into home runs and he could be a true middle-of-the-lineup threat. He shows good pitch-recognition skills, and his bat-to-ball ability is on par with the best in the minors, so he should be able to hit for a high average. When asked about Yelich’s offensive future, a front office source said, Yelich is the top bat for me in the minors; even better than Taveras. I think the hit tool is a 70 and I think the power shows up down the line in the 25-plus range with a ton of doubles. He’s a tough out and he’s just going to get better when he’s forced to face better. Next to Buxton and Bogaerts, we have him in that top tier of young talent in the game.”

That’s extremely high praise, but the comments aren’t out of the box. Yelich has one of the prettiest swings I’ve ever seen at the minor-league level; a delicious stroke from the left side that I’d pay money to watch in slow motion. His defensive profile isn’t quite as sexy, but he has more than enough athleticism to handle an outfield spot, although the arm is fringe so he is limited in that regard. Some see Yelich as a future first baseman, more for positional need than deficiencies in his athletic profile, which as I stated, is good enough for the outfield. At the end of the day, his bat is what will make him a name, and as a natural hitter, it shouldn’t take him long to make an impact at the major-league level. This is a very, very good hitter.

As previously mentioned, Jake Marisnick is a five-tool player, meaning he shows average or better utility across the board with his tool profile. While he lacks a singular high-end tool, the maturity of his average-to-plus collection makes him a potential impact talent at the highest level. Reports are mixed on his defensive qualities, with some that are more convinced in his long-term future in center field than others. I think he has the instincts and the range/glove to man the middle at the highest level, although he isn’t going to be confused with the Buxtons of the world at the position. But he can handle it, which elevates his overall profile and adds value to his stick, which is good but not great, showing contact ability and pop. When asked to comment on Marinick’s future in the majors, a scout suggested he “has the potential to be an all-star because he can do a little of everything. He can play all three outfield positions, even though he might be a better fit for right field down the line. He can run. He can put the bat to the ball. He can make hard contact and has a swing to put balls out of the yard. He offers a ton of value as a .275 type with 20 home runs and 20 steals from a premium position on the diamond. I’d take that in a second.” —Jason Parks

Fantasy Impact: The Marlins are at it again, this time with their top hitting prospect. Like Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich earlier this season, Yelich makes the jump from Double-A and brings with him even bigger expectations. For fantasy purposes, batting average and on-base percentage should be part of his game immediately, while the home run power is expected to develop with time. There has been some additional swing-and-miss in Yelich’s game this year with a career-high (unless you count his 50-PA debut from 2010) 24 percent strikeout rate. That could be exploited a bit in the majors, cutting into that batting average upside, but he balances it with a strong 12 percent walk rate so it’s not as if he’s just swinging wildly.

He is a solid runner who posted 32 and 20 stolen bases with tremendous success rates in 2011 and 2012, but this year he is just 5-for-10. The Marlins are 21st in MLB with just 63 stolen base attempts so his opportunities to improve upon this year’s baserunning may be limited. You are interested in his hitting, though. The upside is significant enough to make him a viable option in virtually all league formats, especially since the Marlins aren’t going to bring the 21-year old up to just sit on the pine. At the very worst, he will be on the fat side of the platoon as his .312/.385/.586 line against righties will get him in the lineup more often than not.

I wouldn’t bend over backward to acquire him in 10-team mixed leagues. Someone with an opening via injury would be best, or else you’d likely be cutting a productive player to take a chance on a 21-year-old. In the remaining formats, he is going to draw serious attention. The biggest battles will be in the NL-only leagues where he is still available, but those will be few and far between. Deeper mixed leagues will have the highest concentration of Yelich availability and teams fighting for his services.

Be ready to pay at least 20-25 percent of your FAAB to acquire Yelich. Assess not only your needs but the needs of those around you to get a better handle on how high your competition might go. If this is a keeper league and Yelich’s FAAB cost won’t determine his keeper price (i.e. $40 FAAB price doesn’t make him a $40A player), be prepared to go even higher, as that will bring the bottom of the standings into the mix as well. —Paul Sporer

***

Apparently, , the Marlins view their Double-A affiliate as an outlet store--call up one outfielder, get the second one for free. The big fish (literally and figuratively) was Christian Yelich, but the unexpected promotion of Jake Marisnick should reasonably cause fantasy owners to raise an eyebrow. And I mean that in the best way possible. As you can tell by the scouting write-up above, Marisnick has the tools to be a real impact fantasy outfielder in the long term, and a potentially nice burst to your team in the short term.

The biggest question, in the short term, is how those tools will play in his first taste of the majors. Realistically, Marisnick probably won't show huge power or steal a ton of bases immediately, but he has the potential to contribute across all categories. That will hold more true if the Marlins hit him toward the top of the lineup, which is a distinct possibility given the current state of their lineup. Even given a full slate of at bats over the rest of the season, it's too late in the year to expect double digits in either homers or steals, but there's no reason he couldn't provide five-to-seven of each while hitting for a batting average that won't hurt you and scoring around 25 runs. Of course, with a toolsy prospect, there's always a high risk that he is unable to make it work on the biggest stage and ends up back in the minors in favor of Marcell Ozuna.

In keeper/dynasty formats, Marisnick has the long-term upside to be worth a pickup in all leagues, as I doubt there are many leagues where a potential 20-20 outfielder isn't usable. Right now in redraft formats, Marisnick is worth picking up in 14-team mixed leagues and deeper if you have a fungible outfield spot that could use a spark. For example, if you're playing someone like Andy Dirks, Dayan Viciedo, or David Murphy in your final outfield spot and can take a risk, Marisnick could be worth the gamble, knowing that you could always run back to the wire for a player of that ilk in a couple of weeks. Of course, you're better off grabbing Yelich first, but this is assuming he's not available. In NL-only formats, the risk of failure should keep your bid reasonable, but I wouldn't be afraid to spend in the $10-12 range in FAAB. The crop of rookies still in the minors after the Marlins' duo is weak, unless you think Billy Hamilton and Oscar Taveras will be up before September--which is becoming less likely by the day. —Bret Sayre

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here
Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

Related Content:  Florida Marlins,  Prospects,  Scouting

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