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Scouting Update: Christian Yelich, INF, Westlake HS (2010 Draft)

April 7, 2010

Offensively, Christian Yelich has shown more confidence and comfort with wood and against good pitching than he has with metal against better high school pitchers. I’ve seen him twice this spring, once against Royal’s Cody Buckel and once against Newbury Park’s Jimmie Sherfy. In each case, the left-handed hitting Yelich was facing two draft picks – one a harder thrower with command, the other a command and control guy. He hasn’t looked comfortable in any of these at-bats. He struck out and grounded out against Buckel and grounded out against Sherfy.

It’s not quite enough for me to dismiss him and here’s why. It would be one thing if I saw him drifting or flying open, but I haven’t. He’s the same balanced, set, up-and-down guy he has always been. The same hitting mechanics I’ve seen with wood are still here, but the timing has not been there in these two looks. Timing is an adjustment, which means that if you’re scouting and you run home and tell your boss he’s not hitting, it means you’re risking a mistake.

A good example of a guy who had a good summer with wood and then struggled with metal in high school baseball in 2009 was Riverside Poly outfielder Jake Marisnick.

Yelich shares the similarly long and lean projectable body type. In 2009, Marisnick said facing a hard-throwing right-hander early in the season played havoc with his timing all season. Marisnick ran into Matt Hobgood at Norco early in the season and struggled the rest of the season to find his comfort level. By the time he got to the playoffs against Tyler Matzek, he was closer to his old self, but ran into Matzek on a good day.

Did it hurt Marisnick in the draft? Combined with his price it probably hurt his round, though not the overall view of his talent. He landed in the third round, where the Blue Jays signed him for $1 million, and basically said with a check that they didn’t care that his timing was screwed up with sporadic metal at-bats in the spring.

I see a lot of 2009 Marisnick in 2010 Yelich.  Like Marisnick, Yelich had a good summer at the Area Codes with wood. He ran into good pitching early. Good hitters make those adjustments and I’m pretty sure Yelich falls into that category.

Defensively, he’s at third base now, and you can see people think he’s got a chance to be Troy Glaus. For me, I think he’s eventually ending up at first. His arm is average, which would be enough, but that’s not what deters me. We’ll need to see how his athletic actions around the bag catch up with his body. I don’t see the lightning-quick defensive reflexes I’d want at that position, though I do see a guy whose hands are OK and who bends his knees on grounders. If he hits, which I see no reason why he should not, he’ll find a position.

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