Coming off an MVP season, it is hard to match expectations, especially after they were set so high in the previous year. While Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich rose from being a solid core of the Miami Marlins to the National League MVP in his first season in brewtown is a testament to how important it is to be in the perfect situation.
In helping the Brewers get back to the playoffs by winning the NL Central division, Yelich has cemented himself into the hearts of Brewers fans throughout the world, as a small-market team thrives on under-the-radar breakthroughs by unsuspecting talent. While he was not homegrown for the team, they used their homegrown (and acquired) talents to go out and get Yelich, which is a testament to how far this team has come.
Yelich is most likely in store for a regression in terms of offensive and defensive production, as he may understand that this team is now built to share the load more than be carried by one person. While the team will gladly take those levels of production in 2019, Yelich should not be counted on to produce career highs in pretty much every category he can.
Here are three bold predictions for Yelich’s 2019 season.
Fewer home runs, more RBIs
After going off on a power binge and belting 36 home runs in 2018, Yelich should not be expected to reach that number again this season, as he had only had a career-high of 21 in 2016 before breaking out last year.
Even thinking that he can reach 25 may be an overstatement, but decently reasonable. If Yelich can produce 20-25 long balls this upcoming season, that should be a win in the eyes of the Brewers.
In terms of driving in runners, he should still be counted on being a big-time run producer, taking over in that role last season with 110 driven in. As a career high for him, he should be able to eclipse that amount this next season.
123 RBIs, combined with 23 home runs sounds like a good spring training outlook for the most recent NL MVP who is looking to replicate last season and bring the Brewers back to the playoffs and continue their dominant streak.
Make more room on the mantle
An underrated aspect of Yelich’s game is his defense, as he is above serviceable in all three outfield spots. Right field is his home, and due to the positional layout that the Brewers currently have with Lorenzo Cain manning center field and Ryan Braun being entrenched is his 5 x 5 plot of grass in left field, Yelich slides in perfectly in right.
He played in both center and left last season and his play did not fall off when he was called upon to move. Players like Eric Thames, Hernan Perez and Domingo Santana all were best suited for right field due to their range and throwing strength, so Yelich became the movable piece in late-inning defensive switches.
Yelich has the raw potential to add a Gold Glove to his trophy case, right next to his shiny MVP award. By playing as well as he did last season in right field, he has a strong case for taking home even more hardware in 2019.
2019 is the year of the thief
Yet another career high that Yelich set last season was with stolen bags, as he swiped a best 22 in 2018, helping jumpstart the top of the order before the big bats came up to the plate. While the Brewers lineup this season is much more complete and the power is spread all throughout 1-8, he may be given the green light more because he has the protection to be more of a contact hitter this season.
Becoming the franchise’s first 30-30 player in a decent amount of seasons would be yet another accomplishment for Yelich, who still has three years on his deal before becoming a free agent, an absolute bargain in terms of production and money. 34 steals, provided his health remains in good standing throughout the season, should easily be in reach for Yelich in 2019.
While he should not be expected to provide that much of an impact due to having an even stronger team in 2019, Yelich will excel in certain areas while regressing in others. But to the surprise of Brewers fans, any regressions that he may have should be seen as a blessing, as the entire team is built to make up for any shortcomings at any point.