Yelich impressed by the talent in the AFL

Yelich impressed by the talent in the AFL

Yelich impressed by the talent in the AFL
PHOENIX -- It didn't take long for Christian Yelich to confirm what scouts knew all along. This guy can hit.

That's a key reason that Yelich, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound outfielder, was selected in the first round by the Marlins (23rd overall) in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He adapted quickly to pro ball, moving from the high school diamond in Westlake, Calif., through Rookie League, Class A and Class A Advanced over the past three seasons.

Yelich, 20, is coming off back-to-back quality seasons: He hit .312 in Class A in 2011 for Greensboro and raised that to .330 at Class A Advanced Jupiter of the Florida State League in '12.

"I think it's gone really well," said Yelich, who is playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League. "I feel like I've gotten better every year, and really that's all you can ask -- to get better from year to year and learn some more things. I'm looking forward to doing it here and next year."

Yelich also made a strong early impression in the AFL. After 12 games, he was hitting .357 with three doubles, three RBIs and two stolen bases.

His progress has been solid, and Desert Dogs manager Aaron Holbert cites the quality of the AFL as a player's talent indicator.

"In this league, we've seen some great talent," he said. "Every time you look at it ... it's an all-star team.

"Every day you're going out there, going against some of the organization's best players, which is a good thing for all these players involved to face that better competition, see where they match up and hopefully they put up good numbers, have good results and put them in a good position for next year."

Yelich, who is No. 17 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, echoes that sentiment.

"You're just playing against the best competition out there, and these guys are it, and any time you can go play against the best, it's only going to help you develop yourself as a player," he said.

"It's been fun," he said. "Getting to interact with guys from other teams is kind of a unique experience, and it's kind of like an all-star game in a sense ... the competition level. It's been a unique, fun experience."

Yelich said he has received no specifics from the Marlins on his timetable. He knows he has to take things in stride, and he is eager to face whatever challenges may lie ahead and let things take their natural course.

"It's basically just playing hard, and when it's time, it's time," he said.

He said the adjustments he has had to make going straight from high school into professional baseball were not as difficult as he had imagined, but nowhere near the "easy" category.

"It takes some getting used to and getting acclimated to playing every day and becoming accustomed to pro ball and the competition," he said. "But I think it went pretty well, and I'm definitely happy with the choice I made."

Marlins hitters in the AFL
Yordy Cabrera has experienced an eventful start to his AFL season. The talented third baseman, a late addition to the Desert Dogs' roster, was dealt from Oakland to Miami in a three-team trade on Oct. 20 -- 11 days into the AFL season -- without leaving Phoenix. Since Oakland and Miami prospects play for the Desert Dogs in 2012, all Cabrera had to do was change uniforms. The 22-year-old was the Athletics' second-round Draft choice (60th overall) in 2010. He hit .232 in 60 games for Stockton of the Class A Advanced California League in 2012.

Kyle Jensen is putting on a show in the AFL, highlighted by a 450-foot grand slam. A 12th-round pick in the 2009 Draft, Jensen, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound outfielder, was batting .408 in his first 12 games in Arizona. He hit .234 at Double-A Jacksonville this season, but clubbed 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs. The blemish on the season was a career-high 162 strikeouts in 132 games.

Jake Realmuto, a catcher, was a third-round Draft pick in 2010. He played 123 games for Jupiter this season, and hit .256 with 16 doubles and 46 RBIs. In his first seven games with the Desert Dogs, he was hitting .250 with two RBIs.

Marlins pitchers in the AFL
Michael Brady appeared in 50 games for Jupiter this season and had 22 saves over 53 1/3 innings. Posting a 2-4 record, he struck out 64. He was an infielder at Cal-Berkeley and was converted to pitcher after he was drafted in the 24th round by the Marlins in 2009. In five AFL games, he has struck out eight over eight innings and allowed three earned runs.

Grant Dayton, a lefty, was an 11th-round selection in 2010 after a standout career at Auburn. He spent part of this season in Double-A Jacksonville, appearing in seven games as a reliever and winning two of three decisions. He struck out 19 in 13 innings. Through his first four games with the Desert Dogs, he has a 1.93 ERA.

Brian Flynn joined the Marlins organization in the deal earlier this year that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers. Detroit drafted the left-handed starter in the seventh round in 2011. In Double-A with two teams in 2012, he was 3-1. He has had a rocky start in the AFL. In three starts, Flynn went 0-2, allowing eight runs, five earned, and 12 hits in 10 innings.

Scott McGough has pitched five innings in four games with the Desert Dogs, one as a starter, allowing two earned runs. The right-hander was a fifth-round pick by the Dodgers in the 2011 Draft. He joined the Marlins as part of the deal for Hanley Ramirez. He holds the record for single-season (31) and career (74) appearances for the University of Oregon.

Jim Gintonio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.