2021-22 Dirty Flirty: Prospect #6

WELCOME TO THE DIRTY FLIRTY.

These are my top 40 prospects in The Cardinals organization, aside from the players that I’ve already covered in The Dirty Annexes. This little ditty here is the preface to all of the post in our Dirty series. So, if you’ve read this once then you don’t need to read it again!


As a warning to those looking for Lars Nootbaar, Scott Hurst, Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Jake Woodford, Edmundo Sosa, and anyone aside from Angel Rondon that has already made a major league debut. That’s not really my bailiwick, as I’m sure you’ve heard enough about those guys from more qualified outlets already. Most of those guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway.


A reminder that this is an exercise in futility, ranking prospects. It’s a landscape that is ever-changing and developing. We are almost always talking about kids that are just starting to understand both themselves and their bodies, while learning the most difficult and nuanced sport in the land. You never know when someone is going to start doing 200 pushups per day on their way to postseason glory.


I ask for your thoughts and feedback. I ask that you have fun. I ask that you remember that I’m a moron. Most importantly, I ask that you take all of the prospect rankings from every outlet in the spirit of what they are: a snapshot of that moment, with a bent towards understanding what might come.


ENJOY!!




#6: 1B Juan Yepez

24 Years Old on Opening Day

Acquired for Matt Adams in 2017

Memphis and Springfield





I can’t begin to tell you how fired up I am to be writing about Juan Yepez.

What an awesome story. What a terrific kid. What a great family.


Just think about it for a minute, if you will. We are just a few years removed from the outrage that came when the Cardinals traded Matt Adams to the Braves for him.


We are just a couple of years removed from Yepez being held back at extended spring training instead of getting an assignment to start the 2019 season.


The last season before the COVID shutdown.


And here we are. The best run-producer for the Cardinals system during the 2021 season with a wRC+ of 154 between the two highest levels of the minor leagues. The #6 prospect on my list.


The dedication and character of this young man is off the charts. He might be the easiest kid to root for not named Winn or Walker. To watch Yepez cultivate his mind and body over the last couple of seasons has been a pleasure. To watch him build off of a quiet-breakout in 2019 is awe-inspiring.


Before we get too far into why he’s amazing and deserving of a real look at the major league club - as well as the praise that comes with being my #6 prospect - I want to get out ahead of some issues. The two areas that Yepez needs to continue to improve on is in the field and around the base paths. Yepez is at his best when he is committed to one defensive position. Whether it’s first base or an outfield position, it seems like he isn't ready just yet for a utility role. I say that, but I also really wanted to see him split time in the outfield and at first during the end of the 2021 AAA season. I think that he could handle it if given a fair shake at both positions. He has work to do at both, in a corner outfield spot specifically, but I know for a fact that his dedication to being the best will allow him to maximize his defensive potential. He’s a lot like Jose Martinez defensively right now, but with more potential in the tank.


On the bases, Yepez isn’t fast and I don’t care about that at all. I just have to say it because people seem to care more about it than I do. Sometimes, a very few times, Yepez is prone to a mistake on the bases. He’ll get better. He’ll get more comfortable. I have no doubt about it. He also has a keen instinct for when he needs to adjust on the paths to avoid a tag.


Now, everything else about Yepez is top tier. He has top tier bat and hand control, and he can do more damage with half of a swing than a lot of prospects can do with a full swing.


He has an understanding of how he is being pitched and a clear ability to adjust on the fly to how he is being attacked. I’ve been impressed watching him shorten up here and there with two strikes and runners on in attempt to do all that he can to drive a run in or advance a runner. While he is more of a pull hitter than anything else, don’t think that Yepez won’t go to the opposite field when needed.


What if I told you that there was only one player in the organization with matching .900+ OPS against lefties and righties at a full season affiliate this season? Well, that one prospect was Juan Yepez. This is Randy Arozarena 2019 breakout-level production out of Yepez, but with more power. Even now, as I type, Yepez is destroying pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. Double after double. Homer after homer. It’s rare that you see some of the best like-handed pitchers at AAA treat a hitter with care. This is how Yepez was handled.


And he still did damage.


Imagine being the type of manager that would leave this on the bench of a playoff series, even if it was his debut. Or the type of manager that wouldn't use a pinch hitter at all. Imagine being the type of manager that wouldn’t play Randy Arozarena down the stretch of 2019. Or that gave Lane Thomas 40 plate appearances in about 60 days of the active roster in the same year. Or hardly played JAG. Or chose Jose Martinez over Luke Voit. Or who continuously chose under performing veteran or his guy over a younger player that just need at-bats. Or a manager who….


Never mind, I’m getting off topic. My B, yo.


The short of the long is that Yepez is a professional hitter as currently constructed. It doesn’t matter if it’s against lefties or righties. It doesn’t matter the situation. Hell, if you want to get crazy and extra critical, Yepez hit 206/325/485 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position over 81 plate appearances in 2021. Sure, a batting average increase would be nice but those numbers will play. The major league average in 2021 was 229/332/386. As slug is the name of Yepez’ s game without an over compromise in the name of striking out, I’ll take it. I’d wager that it gets better, too.


Juan Yepez is a professional hitter. What an awesome thing to type.


A great kid, a dedicated kid, and passionate kid, Juan Yepez is everything that we root for as fans. Watching him get this close to the best version of himself is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever watched or been a part of as a minor league analyst. So long as Yepez stays true to himself and doesn’t try to do to much, he’s going to be a major league contributor for years to come. There isn't a spot in the zone that he can't do damage.




As I just take a screenshot straight from their website, I can’t begin to stress loudly enough the important role that FanGraphs plays in the statistical side of what I do with these write-ups. Please subscribe to their service BY CLICKING THIS LINK.


In addition, you all know how important and valuable @cardinalsgifs is to the pictures that fire up these articles. He’s helped with some of the gifs along the lines, too. I wouldn’t do the write-ups if it weren’t for him.


Thank For Reading!!

Kyle Reis