This is not an article to promote the idea that Christian Yelich is a better player than Mike Trout. Instead, it’s one to point out how the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder is making a continued case for being the best offensive outfielder in Major League Baseball.
Last season Yelich took the league by storm in his debut year with the Brewers. Hitting .326 while totaling 36 home runs, 110 RBIs, and 187 hits (which were all career-highs), he was an invaluable piece in the Brewers winning the National League Central and taking the Los Angeles Dodgers, the defending NL pennant champions, to seven games in the NL Championship Series. Yelich also wreaked havoc on the basepaths, stealing an impressive 22 bags (another career-high); he has continued the heroics this season.
Yelich is currently hitting .326 while totaling 13 home runs and an MLB-best 31 RBIs. Think about that: He has 31 RBIs in 24 games. That’s literally at least an RBI a game. He also has good plate discipline. Yelich currently has 18 walks to his name and drew 11 in the 2018 postseason.
Yelich has one of the sweetest swings in the sport. He’s a line-drive hitter who can hit pitches outside the zone, especially near the chest, runs the bases well, and that makeup has helped make him a formidable hitter. Sure, the Brewers have the likes of Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar, Yasmani Grandal, and Mike Moustakas, among others, in their lineup. But if remove Yelich from the lineup card, they pose nowhere near the same threat; he’s what keeps their offense humming. He’s a threat to drive in runs whenever someone’s on base and he’s in the batter’s box, can set the table for those hitting behind him, and creates opportunities for others when he reaches base.Even with Mike Trout in mind, @RPStratakos makes a case for the red-hot Christian Yelich as MLB's best offensive outfielder.Click To Tweet
The most underrated part of Yelich’s game is his defense. He has the speed to get behind any flyball hit in his general vicinity, has a cannon for an arm, and is versatile. Given his ability to play all three outfield positions, Yelich gives manager Craig Counsell options late in games with double switches, and in general.
Now, Yelich isn’t the clear-cut best hitter in baseball. Jose Altuve is still alive, pumping out 200-hit seasons, and the closest thing to impossible to strikeout as humanely possible. But outside of the Houston Astros star second baseman, there’s no clear best hitter in the sport.
When it comes to elite offensive outfielders, plenty of players not named Yelich come to mind: Trout, Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon, J.D. Martinez, and many more.
Trout is the undisputed best player in baseball because he’s a five-tool player; Betts is fresh off winning the AL MVP Award and hitting .346; Harper has been an intimidating power hitter his entire career; Judge and Stanton are each threats to go yard when they step foot in the batter’s box given their power swings; Blackmon is a steady line-driver hitter; Martinez hit an astonishing .330 while totaling 43 home runs and 130 RBIs last season. At the same time, none of these individuals are flawless.
Trout strikes out at a relatively high rate; Betts is off to a rough start and a year removed from a puzzling season that saw him hit just .264; Harper has endured several month-long slumps and hit a career-worse .249 while totaling 169 strikeouts in 2018; Judge and Stanton, when healthy, rack up strikeouts at a league-high clip; Blackmon is hitting at a lower level than he did from 2016-17; Martinez has strung together just one MVP-caliber season.
Yelich has also strung together just one MVP-caliber season and has endured his fair share of struggles, most notably in the 2018 postseason. Hitting just .194 in the Brewers’ 10 postseason games, he was unable to translate his MVP-regular season efforts into postseason success, recording outs at pivotal times in the NLCS. On the other hand, he has bounced back in a big way to begin the 2019 season.
A lot of times there’s hesitation to instantly include a player fresh off a career-year into a superstar conversation, which is understandable. But Yelich represents all the qualities of such a player. He’s an elite hitter and fielder, has improved in nearly every season he has been in the big leagues, and is an MVP. If he continues the tear he has been on dating back to the beginning of last season, he will win the NL MVP for a second consecutive season.
Proclaiming someone as the best hitter at their respective position doesn’t mean they’re the best player in the sport. For someone to dethrone Trout of that title, they’d have to possess a mix of Billy Hamilton‘s speed, Altuve’s contact-hitting, Judge’s power, and Cain’s glove. Yelich doesn’t have all of that; Trout is a better fielder and baserunner — by a smidgen. But you can back up the idea that Yelich is a better hitter than Trout given how he has produced at a higher rate than him since last season and has more room for improvement in his game.
Now, you could argue that Yelich has a deeper lineup around him, which allows him to drive in runs and be driven in at a high rate, but Trout has that same luxury. He resides alongside the likes of Andrelton Simmons, Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart, Justin Bour, and, when healthy, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. Removing either star outfielder from their respective team would be a gut punch.
Yelich is a star and one that can’t be stopped right now. It’s certainly not outlandish to say he’s the best offensive outfielder in MLB.