Yelich picks up first NL Silver Slugger Award

Yelich picks up first NL Silver Slugger Award

MIAMI -- From the day Christian Yelich was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 Draft, the Marlins insisted the slender outfielder would eventually develop into a power threat.

The transformation occurred in 2016 as Yelich established career highs in home runs (21), RBIs (98) and slugging percentage (.483). On Thursday, the 24-year-old earned his first National League Silver Slugger Award, presented by Louisville Slugger.

"I wasn't really expecting it," Yelich said. "It was a cool little surprise. It's a cool award and nice to be recognized like that."

Yelich is the first Miami outfielder to win a Silver Slugger Award since Giancarlo Stanton in 2014.

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Yelich, Colorado's Charlie Blackmon and New York's Yoenis Cespedes were the three National League outfielders selected. Ryan Braun of the Brewers and Dexter Fowler of the Cubs rounded out the five finalists.

Complete 2016 Awards coverage

In Yelich's first three big league seasons, the left-handed-hitting outfielder hit mostly at the top of the lineup, either leading off or batting second.

Yelich's slash line was .298/.376/.483.

Previously, Yelich's highs for home runs and RBIs were nine and 54 in 2014.

Manager Don Mattingly and the organization felt this was the season Yelich would be ready to slide into the No. 3 spot, and as the season progressed, so did his power numbers.

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As he's matured at the plate, Yelich developed more lift in his swing. In 2015, he had a ground-ball rate of 62.5 percent, but he lowered that in '16 to 56.5 percent.

Yelich's exit velocity on balls in play was 93.34 mph, according to Statcast™, well above the MLB average (89.57).

Yelich's power numbers also picked up in the second half, at a time it was needed because Stanton and first baseman Justin Bour were on the disabled list.

After the All-Star break, Yelich belted 14 homers and drove in 53 runs in 72 games.

The increased power resulted in a dip in his batting average in the second half. Before the All-Star break, Yelich batted .317 with a .398 on-base percentage, compared to .276/.353. But his slugging percentage improved from .475 to .491.

Yelich credited Mattingly and his hitting coaches, Barry Bonds and Frank Menechino, for the strides he made at the plate. Bonds spent one season in Miami before not being retained for 2017.

"Just trying to be a complete offensive player," Yelich said. "The power ticked up a little bit this year. And working with Barry and Frank and talking to Donnie a little bit, and just the combination of talking to those guys really helped a lot. And kind of growing and developing, as far as having another year in the big leagues and learning yourself as a player -- and your swing -- I think it was a good year. I'm trying to build on that and take it into next year."

Yelich is emerging as one of the bright, young stars in the game.

"In Miami, and at this point in his career, he's not going to get a lot of attention by not playing in the postseason or being in the pennant race," Mattingly said late in the season. "But, within baseball circles, to people who watch the game and pay close attention, if Yelly was one of those guys who would be out in the free-agent market, it would be, watch out right now. It would be crazy. I'm glad he's with us. He's just a really good hitter."

The Silver Slugger is Yelich's second major postseason award. In 2014, he was the NL Gold Glove Award-winning left fielder.

Silver Slugger Award winners, determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers, go to the best offensive producers at each position in their respective leagues. Managers and coaches were not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.