Updated: Feb 14
THIS IS THE PROSPECT PREAMBLE.
Each post will feature these words, so feel free to skip accordingly. I offer the same always-standing apologies for the lackluster quality of my writing, as well as the stream of consciousness nature that I write with. I sincerely wish that I was better at writing than I am but, alas, here we are. Also, I'm very good at this as compared to most, but I am still VERY bad at it. Just think about that for a second, for context purposes.
I want to start off by reminding everyone that these posts are aided and enhanced by the works of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and Prospects Live. Each embedded link will take you to their subscription pages and you should absolutely do that. Shout out to Geoff Pontes and Matt Thompson from Baseball America and Prospects Live, respectfully, because they're awesome. FanGraphs stats are OBVIOUSLY clutch and awesome, and that's why they are used in nearly every "Dirty" post. LOVE that FanGraphs.
Accordingly, @Cardinalsgifs provides his artistic touch to the pictures in each article, and I wouldn't do this at all if he wasn't a part of it. Special shoutout to @KareemSSN who is a must follow for Cardinals prospects stuff. His partner in crime is @Cardinalsreek and they have their own prospect list coming out soon!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.
I also want to remind everyone that my list is different in that I don't include players with rookie eligibility that have made a Major League debut. So, you'll have to look elsewhere for Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Jake Walsh, Andre Pallante, and ZacK Thompson. Some of these guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway. I'm just trying to get ahead of this because I will 100% be asked about each. I did almost add 32-year-old Rule 5 draft selection Wilking Rodriguez to the list, but decided against it because he's 32-years-old, entering his age 33 season, and the coverage of him will surely be overly saturated by the time that Spring Training gets going. Also, I didn't add recently acquired Jose Fermín because I just don't care at all. I'm sure he'll make a Major League debut at some point in 2023 which will be cool but I just can't find it in me to care about it at all.
The last thing that I'd like to do is remind everyone that this is just a snap shot of THIS moment. I'm not 100% sure what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. So, when I'm a little more conservative with a player like, say, Michael McGreevy, it's without the knowledge of what he's worked on this offseason, along with the gains that he's made in the areas that I'm concerned about. You never know when/if things are going to click for a player, and there's more reason now than ever before - with the advancements in modern baseball technologies - for a prospect to catapult themselves from out of nowhere. Vice versa, it's easier than ever for a prospect to fall off into obscurity.
Finally, I'd like to provide links to other sites that rank Cardinals' prospects. The Cardinal Nation, Prospects Live, and Baseball America all have their 2023 lists published, and MLB and FanGraphs will link to their most recent rankings from 2022:
KAREEM AND CARDINALS REEKS TOP 12
THIS HAS GONE ON TOO LONG. LET'S. GO.
Infielder R.J. Yeager
Undrafted Free Agent in 2022
Listed at 6'3, 200. Bats R/Throws R
Here's the thing about R.J Yeager: he's pretty damn good.
Here's the other thing about R.J. Yeager as compared to most players that enter the organization through the collegiate ranks: He's old.
One last thing about Yeager: He's also a very intelligent and charismatic kid and athlete.
His age is what hurts him, and it's probably the biggest reason why he went undrafted. His five years worth of NCAA experience between Mercer and Mississippi St. - including a shortened 2020 COVID season - play heavily into the success that he had at Low-A Palm Beach last season after signing with the Cardinals. That's a lot of experience for a league like that, and he probably should have been this good in this league.
What I know from researching R.J. Yeager is that he's one of those collegiate players that have a following that transcends normal collegiate fandom. When you tweet about him or talk about him, someone that's played with him or coached him or has watched him play before will slide into the Twitter DM's to tell me how awesome of a person he is and how good at baseball he is.
Over the years, I've learned to trust this as a sort of form of... extra evaluation, let's call it. These players - players with this type of underground support - always seem to be better than anyone gives them credit for until they are doing it and everyone is giving them credit. R.J. Yeager seems to be one of these players.
Now, this is where I might normal getting into batted ball profile and exit velocities and stuff like that, but I just don't think it's worth getting into when you are talking about a player as advanced as Yeager at that level. I don't think the data tells us anything that knowing his experience level as compared to the league tells us. What I will say is that Yeager is capable of using the entire field when he's "on" and that he has the power that comes with the intent that I am begging Jeremy Rivas to show as he grows. The data available shows us that Yeager is capable of finding the sweet spot of the bat at a pretty decent 30-ish% clip, but that there is also a lot of soft contact in the contact that he's making. Truth be told, he had a weird batted ball profile in his small 111 plate appearance sample at Palm Beach that didn't jive with what he did in college. The uncertainty that comes with that plays a large role in why he's at the back of the list.
Now, Yeager was a SS/2B at both Mercer and Mississippi St., but he was basically a third baseman exclusively for Palm Beach. The data tells us that he struggled at third, but the data doesn't really mean shit in this case. He's an athletic kid that could more than handle short at the collegiate level, and I have no doubt that those skills will translate to the hot corner if he's forced into that position (or other positions) in the long-term. He's a taller kid at 6'3", but not too far off from many shortstops in the Majors these days. He's not a burner by any means, but he has enough speed, enough agility and quick movements, and enough feel to make up for some of the areas that he might lack in the field. As the gif above will show you, Yeager is a smooth defender.
R.J. Yeager also comes with the added "benefit" of a built in catchphrase with "Yeager Bomb" every time that he hits a homer. While I hate catchy crap like this, I know C70 and the other whites will love it, so that actually makes me hate it more.
They can't all be winners, I guess.
For the incredibly heady Yeager to move up The Dirty, He'll need only to continue to evolve his batted ball profile while doing more with the sweet spot contact that he makes. He'll need to prove that he can do it at more age-appropriate levels, as well. With that said, Yeager is also the exact-type hitter that I trust the Cardinals MiLB hitting brass to get the most out of. There's potentially more than just "MiLB depth" in Yeager's future.
Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis