JUPITER, Fla. -- Hanley Ramirez did it in 2009, and Dee Gordon accomplished the feat in 2015. Christian Yelich just might be primed in 2017 to become the third player in Marlins' history to win the National League batting title.If he does, it wouldn't surprise one of the great managers
JUPITER, Fla. -- Hanley Ramirez did it in 2009, and Dee Gordon accomplished the feat in 2015. Christian Yelich just might be primed in 2017 to become the third player in Marlins' history to win the National League batting title.
If he does, it wouldn't surprise one of the great managers of this generation. Jim Leyland, who managed Yelich on Team USA's World Baseball Classic championship team, recently predicted a batting crown was in the future for the 25-year-old Marlins center fielder.
Could it be this year?
With Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, a case can be made that both could be National League Most Valuable Player and Esurance Player of the Year Award winners.
No Marlins player has ever been named MVP. In 2014, Stanton was the runner-up to Clayton Kershaw.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly, a former American League batting champ during his playing days with the Yankees, wouldn't be surprised if Yelich won a batting title. To do so, however, it is a matter of consistency.
"You don't really concern yourself with winning a batting title," Mattingly said. "Those years kind of fall into place. Sometimes the hits fall for you, you get a little bit lucky. As much as anything with [Yelich], he shows the consistency to hit all types of pitching -- lefties, righties, relievers, good stuff, soft stuff. He's capable of hitting all of it. You look at him as more as a possibility of doing that all year long."
A pure left-handed hitter who is growing into his power, Yelich had a slash line of .298/.376/.483 with 21 home runs and 98 RBIs in 2016.
In '15, Yelich finished with a .300 batting average.
Ramirez set the Marlins' season record with a .342 average in '09, becoming Miami's first batting champion. Gordon topped the NL with a .333 average in '15, securing the title on the final day over Bryce Harper.
The NL has no shortage of elite hitters, so winning a batting crown will not be easy.
DJ LeMahieu of the Rockies won the title last year at .348, and Washington's Daniel Murphy was second at .347.
Corey Seager of the Dodgers, the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in '16, is getting attention as a possible MVP. Seager finished at .308 as a rookie, and had the seventh-highest batting average.
A career .293 hitter, Yelich is starting to come into his own. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native raised his profile last year by becoming a Silver Slugger Award Winner. And in the Classic, he was one of Team USA's top performers, and won the trust of Leyland to bat him third.
With Stanton, being an award winner could be a matter of health. Injuries have cost him considerable playing time in each of the past three seasons.
Last year, the slugger was out with a left groin strain, and appeared in 119 games.
Stanton is always a threat to pace the NL in homers. In 2014, Stanton became the only Marlins player ever to be a home run king, clubbing 37. It's a matter of health with Stanton. If he stays on the field, his production should follow.
And Gordon is just two years removed from being a batting champion. With his speed and ability to leg out hits, the 28-year-old could challenge again.
Gordon also has stolen at least 30 bases in three straight years, and could be a contender again for the Lou Brock Award for tops in the Majors. He won the award in 2014-15.
A pitcher who could find himself up for an award is closer A.J. Ramos, who saved 40 games last year, and was a first-time All-Star.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.