Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich wins NL Gold Glove
Christian Yelich’s smooth swing made him a first-round selection by the Marlins in 2010, but his defensive play this season garnered him his first major-league accolade.
Yelich became the first Marlins outfielder and the youngest in the organization’s history to win a Rawlings Gold Glove on Tuesday night.
"Honestly, I don’t even know," Yelich said. "It doesn’t really feel real. I didn’t really believe it until today. I was making sure it wasn’t some sick joke. It’s a really cool feeling, and I’m going to enjoy it."
In 2014, his first full season in the big leagues, Yelich led all NL left fielders with a .996 fielding percentage, which set a club record. He committed just one error and ranked second with six assists. According to BaseballReference.com, Yelich recorded the best range factor per nine innings for an NL left fielder (1.99) and the second-most defensive runs saved (15). His first experience playing in the outfield came in pro ball.
"It means a lot," Yelich said. "It’s a big credit to our Player Development staff, honestly. Tarrik Brock, especially. He got me from Day One. I didn’t know where to position myself in my first start. I didn’t know where to stand. Working with him every off season, and during the season, it helped me tremendously. He’s a big reason why I won that award.
"Obviously, working with (outfield coach) Brett Butler this year with positioning. And how hard he works on those spray charts, and where we need to play. It’s a credit to all those people."
The 22-year-old hit .284 with 21 stolen bases, 30 doubles, six triples, nine home runs and 54 RBI as the club’s leadoff batter. Other than a disabled list stint for lower back discomfort, Yelich was in the lineup every day, appearing in 144 games.
As a young player, Yelich didn’t allow bad at-bats or slumps to impact his defense. In May, for example, he hit just .217 before warming up in the summer months.
"If you’re struggling at the plate, you never want to carry that to the outfield," Yelich said. "If you kind of have a hit taken away, then you want to go take a hit away from somebody else. Those types of things. You can’t drag defense to offense or offense to defense. To be able to be recognized defensively is pretty special, considering that really wasn’t my reputation, coming into the big leagues. It’s cool feeling you’re a complete player."
Five Marlins had won Gold Gloves in the past: catcher Charles Johnson (1995, ’96, ’97), first baseman Derrek Lee (2003), second baseman Luis Castillo (2003, ’04, ’05), third baseman Mike Lowell (2005) and left-hander Mark Buehrle (2012).
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and Stanton, a right fielder, were also finalists for Gold Gloves at their respective positions.
Yelich said both center fielder Marcell Ozuna and Stanton were deserving of Gold Gloves as well. He credited Stanton, who developed into the team leader, for helping him this season with any questions he had.
Award winners are determined by votes from each big-league manager and up to six coaches on his staff. Last season, Rawlings added a sabermetric component to the selection process, as part of its collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), for 25 percent of the total.
"It’s a big field," Yelich said of playing in spacious Marlins Park. "It gives you an opportunity to cover a lot of ground. That’s what I was able to do this year. Left field is big, right field is big and center field is big. You’ve got to be able to cover a lot of ground out there. I think we did a very good job with that. We feel very comfortable out there. We’re used to it. We take all of our live reads in batting practice out there."