Here's why Christian Yelich is baseball's James Harden
It's not that Christian Yelich was a bad player. Over his first five years in the Majors, he established himself as no worse than solid at just about everything: He could play all three outfield spots, get on base, steal double-digit bases and hit 30 doubles.
It's just that, well, he wasn't a star -- it's not a coincidence that he never made an All-Star team in Miami, and for a former first-round pick and top prospect with natural gifts like these, people naturally started wondering if there was more.
And then he was traded to Milwaukee this winter, and we found our answer: There was a lot, lot more.
Yelich found another gear in 2018, setting career highs in homers, steals, batting average and slugging percentage while bringing the Brewers to the doorstep of the World Series. He's become the player everyone thought he might be -- and then some.
All of which got us thinking: What other stars, both in sports and pop culture, have charted that career path? Our seven picks are below. (And if we left anybody off, be sure to let us know @Cut4.)
Much like Yelich, Harden was a first-round pick, going third overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2009. Much like Yelich, he flashed potential in his first few years in the NBA -- even winning a Sixth Man of the Year Award -- while also leaving everybody wanting more. Then, also much like Yelich, he was traded from the team that drafted him due to payroll concerns ... and blossomed into a star.
Here's hoping Yelich's trip to his league's semifinals goes a little bit better, though.
Following a prodigious college career at BYU (and an odd detour into the ill-fated USFL), Young was drafted by the Bucs in the first round of the 1984 Supplemental Draft. But despite his obvious physical gifts, the lefty struggled, throwing 21 interceptions to just 11 TDs over his first two seasons -- while the Bucs went 3-16 in his starts.
Even after being dealt to Bill Walsh's 49ers, success didn't come easily. Young put up awesome numbers as a backup but still played second fiddle to some guy named Joe Montana (much as Yelich was a bit overshadowed by Giancarlo Stanton during their time with the Marlins). Once he finally got his chance to shine, though, a Super Bowl was soon to follow:
Pratt first came to our attention as Andy Dwyer, the lovable doofus shining shoes and serenading a miniature horse on Parks and Recreation. But while he was reliably funny, he was stuck squarely in comic-relief territory, in need of some sort of change to make the leap to full-on star.
In this case, "some sort of change" meant "getting absolutely ripped to film Zero Dark Thirty":
Once Pratt ascended to the ranks of Hollywood Chrises, roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic Park soon followed, and it's just sort of a given that he's going to play a young Indiana Jones soon, right?
It's only fitting that Yelich's official doppelganger is also his career doppelganger. Davidson's talent and potential were obvious with every Weekend Update monologue, but he remained a bit player on SNL. And then he had the summer to end all summers, from getting engaged to Ariana Grande to becoming his very own meme.
Now he's putting together hilarious Les Mis spoofs, he's starring in Netflix rom-coms and the sky is seemingly the limit.
Of course, Yelich is far from the only baseball player to break out following a trade. Morgan debuted with the Astros at just 19 years old and quickly established himself as a dangerous player -- a lightning-quick second baseman who was constantly a threat to lead the league in triples. But Houston as a team still struggled, and it entered the 1971 offseason looking for some more pop in its lineup. So that November, Morgan was traded to the Reds ... and that's when all those triples started turning into homers.
Morgan didn't just become a better player in Cincy. He became one of the very best infielders of all-time: Over the next five years, he averaged a 163 OPS+ with 22 homers and 62 steals, while helping the Reds capture back-to-back World Series titles.
Once upon a time, Drake was just Aubrey Graham, a young Canadian actor best known for playing James "Wheelchair Jimmy" Brooks on the teen drama Degrassi. He was charming enough, but no one could've predicted the multi-platinum-selling, meme-spawning force he'd become after making the switch to hip-hop. Alas, Yelich hasn't made Drake his walk-up music, but we hope it's just a matter of time.