By Matt Citak
The Milwaukee Brewers had high expectations for Christian Yelich when they traded for the 26-year-old outfielder in the offseason.
The Brewers sent highly regarded outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Isan Diaz, outfielder Monte Harrison and pitcher Jordan Yamomoto to Miami in exchange for the promising outfielder, who at the time of the trade had five years left on his contract. Brinson, Diaz and Harrison were three of Milwaukee's top 10 prospects.
With the fire sale that went on in Miami over the winter that saw Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Marcell Ozuna get traded, along with Yelich, the package of prospects the Marlins received from the Brewers was considered the strongest of them all.
It's safe to say Milwaukee had some big plans for the talented center fielder. However coming into the 2018 season, Yelich had never been named to an All-Star team. His .300 batting average in 126 games back in 2015 was his previous career-high, and he had never topped 21 home runs (2016) in a season. His career accolades included just one Gold Glove Award (2014) and one Silver Slugger Award (2016).
But as we enter the final handful of regular season games, one thing has become abundantly clear- Yelich has blossomed into an absolute stud in his first year in Milwaukee.
His .321 batting average leads the National League, and trails only the Red Sox duo of Mookie Betts (.343) and J.D. Martinez (.328) in all of Major League Baseball. He also leads the NL in on-base plus slugging percentage at an impressive .973, and has smashed 33 home runs to go along with his 104 runs batted in.
But it's his performance since the All-Star break, the first he participated in, that is truly jaw-dropping.
When he first returned to the Brewers on July 20, Yelich immediately looked locked-in. The outfielder hit safely in each of Milwaukee's first 12 games after the break, picking up multiple hits in 10 of the 12 while smacking four home runs and 14 RBI.
Overall, Yelich has hit an astounding .359 with 22 home runs and 61 RBI in just 60 games since returning from his first All-Star appearance.
As if that weren't enough, the 26-year-old also hit for the cycle... on two separate occasions.
His outstanding performance has elevated Milwaukee back into the playoff race, as the Brewers are a game away from locking down a Wild Card spot, while the team also sits just half a game back from the Cubs in the NL Central. A lot of this is due to the talented outfielder, who has hit eight home runs since August 29, almost single-handedly bringing the club back into playoff contention.
There's no denying how amazing Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Aaron Nola have been this season. The trio of NL East pitchers have dominated the entire league, and have made it look simple along the way.
However when it comes down to who should be the recipient of this year's NL MVP Award, that honor belongs to Yelich.
Of course, the Brewers have some talent up and down the roster, but make no mistake- it's Yelich's stellar performance that has catapulted Milwaukee into the team's first postseason berth since 2011.
On top of that, he's been by far and away the best hitter in the National League this season (his 6.8 WAR is tops among NL hitters, according to Fangraphs).
There have been some outstanding performances in the NL this season, but none quite on the same level as Christian Yelich. Voters need to make the right decision and crown the 26-year-old outfielder as the National League's Most Valuable Player.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.
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