2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Christian Yelich

Known for his sweet left-handed swing, Christian Yelich of Westlake High School has ridden his hitting ability to the top of the prep ranks in the 2010 draft. We sat down with Christian to discuss his hitting approach, what position he likes to play defensively, and the differences in hitting with wood versus metal.

I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2010 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6'4", 190 lbs?

Christian Yelich: Yeah, I'm 6'3"-6'4", 190 lbs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Growing up did you play any other sports besides baseball?

Christian Yelich: I played football and basketball when I was little, but it was just baseball when I was right around 12.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: With Pac-10 baseball in your backyard, what led you to commit all the way across the country to Miami?

Christian Yelich: Well, I was supposed to go to UCLA, I had committed there as a sophomore, in the first week of my season. I found that early of a commitment to be kind of a rush decision, and looking back on it I don't think it was a good idea because being only a sophomore, you don't really know what you want, whereas when you're a senior, that's when you're closest to going to college and have a better idea. I had been thinking about it, and the more I thought about it, it just didn't feel like the right decision. My dad went there, my uncle went there, and my cousin plays football there as a redshirt freshman, so there's a lot of family background at UCLA and I figured I might as well try it, but it just wasn't right for me. I had to call Coach Savage and tell him I was sorry and had made a mistake, and that was a rough phone call, but I made it because it had to be done. Then we just started the recruiting process all over again, completely from scratch, and Miami ended up just feeling right and was the best fit for me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: It sounds like you have a lot of west coast roots, so will it be tough being so far away from home?

Christian Yelich: No, I don't think I'll have a problem with it. It was only three or four days, but I liked it when I was there on my visit, and we spent about a month back east with the two weeks of East Cobb and ABD, and then the ten days for the USA trials, so I enjoy it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft? Some guys say it's the last thing on their mind every night before they go to bed, and some guys say they're trying their hardest not to think about it at all. Where do you stand in that spectrum?

Christian Yelich: I try not to think about it. My goals right now are to put together a solid senior season, do what I know I can do, and the situation with the draft and college will work itself out later. We'll have about a month when the season ends to worry about the draft, so I feel there's no use worrying about it now – it can only hurt you if you're constantly worrying about it while you're playing your season.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is the image you get in your mind when you allow yourself to dream about playing professionally, whether it is out of HS or out of Miami?

Christian Yelich: Making it to the big leagues. It's everyone's dream from when they first start playing baseball; you're four or five years old and the dream is to just "be a big leaguer." So that's what I'd love to do – just make it there and be successful.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Christian Yelich: I'm not sure. Almost all of them, if not all of them.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are the Yankees one of those teams?

Christian Yelich: Yeah, they were actually the first team to do an in-house visit back in November.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you describe yourself as a hitter?

Christian Yelich: I think I'm a patient hitter with a really relaxed stance, I'm not too tense and I try to have a fluid swing. I want to have everything at the plate nice and smooth and it's been working for me since I was little. I've never had anything coached or anything like that, it's kind of been just naturally that I've been able to hit a ball since I was a little kid.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You said you were patient, but can you give a little more detail about your approach at the plate?

Christian Yelich: I'm patient in the sense that I'm making sure I stay within the strikezone and don't chase a pitcher's pitch. Approach-wise, I think that varies from pitcher to pitcher, because the more times you see a guys you get a better idea of what he's trying to do to get you out, so the approach you take will vary.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being a LHB, does facing a LHP give you any additional trouble at this point?

Christian Yelich: I feel that I've always been able to handle lefties pretty well. I try to stay inside the ball and work middle to the left-center gap, keep the bat back, stay down on breaking balls, and just not try to do too much with it – and it's worked out.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you a natural righty? How did you end up as a lefty hitter?

Christian Yelich: I do everything right-handed: throw kick, write, eat…but for some reason I always hit lefty. Nobody taught me that way or forced it on me, I just always picked up a bat lefty, it was more comfortable for me, and it's just worked out.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Where do you hit in the lineup?

Christian Yelich: I hit leadoff for our high school team because of my walks. I see the most pitches and it gives you the chance at an extra at-bat each game, so it's kind of nice.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How significant a role does speed play in your game?

Christian Yelich: I think it's helped me a lot, and that's been a surprise to people because I don't think that people who look at me think I'd be fast or be able to run like I do. It really helps my game, being able to turn singles into doubles, being able to leg out some infield hits every now and then, and maybe eventually play some outfield.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you know what your best 60 time has been?

Christian Yelich: It's a 6.67 or 6.68 – something around there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your personality on the field? What does someone who comes to watch you play see in terms of your outward expression on the field?

Christian Yelich: I try to keep an even-keeled approach so people won't know if I'm 0-4 or 4-4, if the team is up ten or down ten. I'll be a leader when necessary, but for the most part I try to make sure my demeanor always stays the same – don't get too high on the highs or too low on the lows.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you hit with wood?

Christian Yelich: Oh, a lot. When you go to all these showcases, tournaments, or invite events for the pro guys, it's all wood. I started hitting with wood my freshman year summer, and have continued that up to now. I actually prefer wood bats to aluminum. I guess you could maybe hit a ball a little farther with an aluminum bat, but I just like the feel of a wood bat.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it tough when you use aluminum in HS to not fall into any lazy habits with your swing?

Christian Yelich: Yeah, in practice sometimes I'll use half and half just to stay sharp with the wood. Using a wood bat helps you to be barrel-conscious – you have to make sure you're barreling ball up or you're going to snap your bat or not hit the ball as well as you should. That translates to barreling balls up with aluminum bats, and the ball just takes off even more when you hit it well with aluminum.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Defensively you've played both infield corners and a little outfield, with some scouts saying you project best in the outfield. What are your feeling on your defensive position? Where in the outfield would you play – leftfield? Centerfield?

Christian Yelich: Oh, I love to play outfield, I played there freshman year and actually won that position on our freshman team. That was the first time I was able to play outfield for the whole season and I really enjoyed it. I think I'd probably play there this year for my high school team if it wasn't for the fact that we needed some infielders and our coach thought it would work if I played the infield. When we go to the showcases and stuff I mix with the outfielders a little bit. Each scout or team has their own preference about which outfield position I'd play, but I'm comfortable in left or center.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from the SoCal area, what team did you grow up a fan of? Dodgers? Angels?

Christian Yelich: I've actually always loved the Yankees ever since I was little. People get on me saying I'm a bandwagon fan and all that stuff, but ever since I was five I've been a fan and I think the first game I ever watched was a Yankee game. I've always liked them for some reason. No one in my family was a Yankees fan before me, so I kind just picked it up as I was growing up.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play the game?

Christian Yelich: I'd have to say Jeter for being a leader, how he carries himself, and how he's never in trouble off the field, but still respected on the field. I just think he's the essence of what a big leaguer should be.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one skill from any other guy in your draft class, whose skill would you steal and why?

Christian Yelich: I'd say Mike Lorenzen or Austin Wilson's arm, one of those two guys. They have absolute cannons and it'd be nice to see what that was like .

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who is the toughest pitcher you've faced so far?

Christian Yelich: I'd probably have to say A.J. Cole. He had a really good running fastball and a pretty good slider when I faced him.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you heard any comparisons from anyone?

Christian Yelich: I haven't heard too many comparisons, but I think someone has said Shawn Green, maybe.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it safe to say that if you were drafted and presented with a nice contract, playing professionally out of high school is something that you would consider?

Christian Yelich: Yeah, I'd consider it, though it is April and the draft is in June, so it's a little early to be deciding one way or the other. I'm just going to finish up high school, finish the season strong, and whatever happens, happens.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Finally, how do you balance the pressure of having these two amazing opportunities in front of you with just trying to be a normal, 18 year old kid?

Christian Yelich: It's kind of a unique position to be in; there are very few kids in the country who are in our position. I don't really see it as pressure, I see it more as an honor and a privilege because we're all in a win-win situation here. We either get to start our dream as a professional baseball player, or go play baseball at a great university for a great program and coach and have a chance at getting to the College World Series. So, I think it's a positive situation for me either way.

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