Fair or not, Minor Leagues still likely for Yelich

Christian Yelich signs after hitting walk-off homer.

Christian Yelich signs after hitting walk-off homer.

JUPITER, Fla. — Already this spring, Christian Yelich has hit leadoff and walk-off home runs. Yet, in a few days, odds are the Marlins’ touted outfield prospect will be hitting the road out of big league camp.

Fair?

Not hardly. If you want fairness, you won’t always find it in Spring Training. And this isn’t just the Marlins who have to make these tough decisions.

A year ago, the Nationals started Bryce Harper off in the Minors, even though he pretty much was big league ready. In 2010, Giancarlo Stanton, then 20, was an emerging force who tempted the front office, but ultimately started off at Double-A Jacksonville.

The plan has always been to give Yelich and Jose Fernandez — two of the best prospects in the game — a taste of big league camp before sending them down.

Minor League camp is underway for the Marlins, and those teams are starting to play simulated games. By the middle of the week, and the weekend, scrimmages will get underway. Perhaps by then, Yelich will be switching sides at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. He’s already game-tested, so it would be a waste of time to have him facing pitchers throwing live-BP behind screens.

Still, what Yelich is accomplishing has to be giving Miami’s front office something to think about.

Yelich was the hero on Monday, belting a two-out, two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth inning in the Marlins’ 8-7 win over the Red Sox.

On hand to see the heroics was Yelich’s mom, Alecia, who has traveled from her home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., to catch a few games. She’s already been treated to some memorable moments.

Her first game was Sunday, and that too, turned out to be an occasion. Yelich hit a home run against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista. So she’s seen two homers in two days.

Aside from perhaps Donovan Solano, batting .480 (12-for-25), it’s hard to argue that Yelich hasn’t been the Marlins’ best player in Spring Training. In 14 games, he is hitting .375 (12-for-32) with three homers and a team-high 11 RBIs.

The way he’s playing is showing he is really close to being big league ready, if he isn’t already.

“That’s a tough conversation,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I’m sure we’ll have to talk about it. We want to make sure we do what’s best for him and the organization. I think we’ve all seen guys who have great springs and struggle out of the chute too. We’ve all seen that.

“But I’m happy for him and the way he is swinging the bat. That’s all that matters right now.”

There are reasons to start Yelich off at Double-A. First, he has never played above Class A. And you don’t want to get too carried away with Spring Training numbers. You also don’t want to rush a 21-year-old.

There also is the business side of things. If he starts off too early, his arbitration service clock begins. A more realistic callup time would be in early to mid June.

Then there is the issue of the players competing for the center field job. Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan each have track records of success in the big leagues. They need their repetitions in hopes of being ready.

Then you have Gorkys Hernandez and Bryan Petersen, who are also competing for outfield spots.

You can’t overlook the importance of the impact on the 40-man roster.

The Marlins already are at 40, and they will need to add some of their non-roster invitees, who make the team. That number could trim if Rule 5 pick, Alfredo Silverio, who has a strained right elbow, starts off on the 40-man roster. That would free one spot. Lefty reliever Braulio Lara, another Rule 5 pick, also is on the 40-man roster. A decision will have to be made on him.

The Marlins have a number of spots to fill and several of them likely are going to non-roster invitees. For instance, you have Nick Green, Chone Figgins and Matt Downs who could each play all infield positions.

All the logical thinking points to Yelich starting off at Double-A.

Still, I keep going back to a conversation I had with an American League scout who is following the Marlins. Recently, he said, if the team were keeping its best 25 players, Yelich right now would be playing on Opening Day.

Joe Frisaro

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