FSL notes: Yelich comes out swinging

Top Marlins prospect doesn't miss a beat after starting late

By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com | April 25, 2012 6:42 AM ET

Christian Yelich got to play in two exhibition games at Marlins Park, but that just wet his appetite even more for the real thing.

"What a beautiful place," the Marlins' No. 1 prospect said. "It was awesome."

For now, the 20-year-old outfielder is playing about 90 miles away with Jupiter in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. But there is no question that he is on the fast track to the Major Leagues.

Just look at what Yelich did in his first eight games with the Hammerheads after missing the first 10 days of the season because of a freak injury late in Spring Training.

The left-handed hitter had five multi-hit games and was batting .429 with two doubles, two triples, two homers and five RBIs through Monday. His on-base percentage was .543 thanks to seven walks compared to six strikeouts, and he had a .857 slugging mark.

The start is in contrast to his first full season a year ago, when he didn't heat up until after the All-Star break with Class A Greensboro in the South Atlantic League.

"I didn't really hit much at all the first couple of months," said Yelich, who signed for a bonus of $1.7 million after being the No. 23 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

But he hit .354 and slugged 10 of his 15 homers in the second half for the Grasshoppers. Yelich finished third in the league with a .314 average and was among the leaders in doubles (32), total bases (223), steals (32), on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.871).

Then came the postseason. Yelich helped lead Greensboro to the South Atlantic League title, smashing a walk-off blast in the 15th inning of the opening game of the semifinal series that MiLB.com voters honored as the Minor League Homer of the Year in part because of his exuberance rounding the bases.

"It was the first walk-off homer of my life," Yelich said. "It was definitely my most exciting moment so far."

More big moments are likely to come, though. Yelich was named the Marlins' Minor League Player of the Year, and he is No. 35 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects.

The California native got a taste of the Majors during the early part of Spring Training, going 0-for-3 with two walks in two Grapefruit League games and playing in the two college exhibitions to christen Marlins Park.

But Spring Training didn't end well. Yelich was hit on the right elbow by a teammate's flying bat as he waited in the on-deck circle during a Minor League game.

"He swung through a changeup and the barrel of the bat hit me flush," Yelich said. "There was a lot of pain and swelling. I didn't know how bad it was. Fortunately, it was just a bruise."

Opposing Florida State League pitchers wouldn't have minded if Yelich was sidelined a little longer. He returned red-hot while making the full-time transition to center field from left with Jupiter.

The 6-foot-4 Yelich, who has built up his arm strength, was mostly an infielder in high school. But center is the Marlins' position of need, and it may not be too many more years before their top prospect is manning that spot in Miami's new ballpark.

In brief

Bradley no longer unblemished: After not allowing an earned run in his first three Minor League starts, Brevard County left-hander Jed Bradley finally showed that he isn't invincible. The Brewers' No. 2 prospect allowed seven runs -- four earned -- over five innings in a no-decision at Clearwater. Despite the rough outing, MLB.com's No. 97 overall prospect still had a 1.50 ERA and 23 strikeouts to four walks in 24 innings.

Pitching key to fast starts: South Division leader St. Lucie got off to a 15-2 start after opening 17-2 a year ago. Pitching was again the key for the Mets, who led the Florida State League with a 2.55 ERA through Monday. Dunedin led the North Division at 14-3 and had a 2.79 ERA.

Flores at home at third: Wilmer Flores was moved from shortstop to third base this season, and the Mets' No. 6 prospect got off to a hot start at the plate in his third season with St. Lucie. The 20-year-old native of Venezuela was hitting .321 and had driven in 14 runs in 16 games. Flores had four doubles and a homer.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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