In conjunction with my friend Colin Garner over at The Redbird Daily, we present to you our combined list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals organization! Every other day for the next two months, From January 28th until March 29th, we will be presenting you with an exhaustive evaluation on each of the top 30 prospects in the organization starting with prospect #30 and counting down to prospect #1. This is our combined list, not our own individual lists. For additional information on how we came these rankings, CLICK HERE. Without further delay, we present...
Prospect #17, SS/3B Yairo Munoz
Age To Start The 2018 Season: 23
Signed By The Oakland Athletics Out Of The Dominican Republic In 2012
Acquired For Stephen Piscotty in 2017
AA wRC+: 140 AAA wRc+: 86
Kyle Reis (Prospect #17 On Personal List, Prior To Combining Lists With Colin Garner)
What I like about Munoz is what he represents to the organization as a potential high caliber prospect that plays positions that the Cardinals lack depth in. Prior to acquiring him, the Cardinals lacked a legitimate prospect at the upper levels of the minors that could play the left side of the infield. I know that there's an uprising for Patrick Wisdom among some fans, but Wisdom doesn't offer the versatility that Munoz does and he also doesn't possess the all-around offensive approach of Munoz.
Yairo's 17% K rate while splitting time between AA and AAA is a great sign, especially for a player that was 22 years old during the entirety of the 2017 season. Munoz' 2016 was a little weird and he saw a reduced number of plate appearances, but I love that he rebounded strong in 2017. I'm a big fan of statistical consistency, and to see that Yairo recovered in 2017 to hit a 2015-matching 13 HR and 26 doubles is a very positive sign. That consistency really helps when trying to figure out what kind of prospect Munoz is.
When you watch Munoz play defense the first thing that sticks out is how dynamic his arm is. Fangraphs has it listed as a 70 on the 80 scale and I couldn't agree more. It's a rocket and it's noticeably better than the highly regarded arm of Patrick Wisdom. Munoz is a solid if not unspectacular short stop, but he was moved around the diamond in the A's system because of the cluster of MI prospects that they have in their organization. They were trying to find an opportunity for him because it wasn't going to come if he stayed at short. Make no mistake, he isn't a short stop on the same level as other A's farmhands Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, and Richie Martin.
This next gif really has nothing to do with my evaluation of Munoz other than to show you that he's athletic, or lucky, enough to be a fine utility player. He's only every played 28 games in the outfield. Eight of those 28 games came in right field, and the fact that he could even get to this ball should give you some indication of his athleticism.
If you track down video of Munoz from year to year you'll see that he has yet to settle on a position for his hands in the batters box. Early on in his career,, and as recent as 2016 as the first gif in this article shows you, he'd keep his hands extremely high with his elbow almost blocking his head from the view of a camera. Every year since his hands/arms/elbow have dropped little by little and I'm really happy about that. This is what it looked like in 2017:
I'm not the biggest fan of constant mechanical adjustments from a hitter, but I really like what Munoz has done. I like that level of awareness and deficiency-recognition. I also like that there's seems to be a little Edgar Renteria in his swing through the point of contact. It's a smooth swing when it's on.
There's a lot of promise in the game of Munoz and I'm really excited to see how he performs in AAA during his age 23 season. 2018 will be a defining season for this potential utility stud.
What I don't like about Munoz is that I have no feel for him as a prospect. I've watched countless games and a ton of highlights. I've read every scouting report about him that I can find dating all of the way back to the day he signed with Oakland. Yet, I still have no feel for the type of player he is. The only consistency in all of it is that he has a strong arm and that he's probably better suited for short stop than third because of consistency and not because of tools. Is he going to be a power hitter? Is he going to hit for a high average? Is he capable of repeating his stolen base totals or success? I can honestly say that I don't have the slightest idea. More importantly, there are very few stats from year to year that help to clarify. He is a COMPLETE WILD CARD to me.
Munoz had a successful turn at AA to start the season and he was slugging the ball to a tune of .532, but it came at the cost of his walk rate which dipped to 4.8%. I like that his K rate was in the 16-17% range, but a 4% walk rate isn't going to cut it at any level. It's concerning that his walk rate dropped from 5.9% in 2016 to 4.4% in 2017. 5.9% is concerning enough, the dip to 4.4% is a disaster.
As I mentioned, he was great at AA to start the season but it needs to be noted that this was his second turn at the level. That skews his stats. Inflates them, if you will. As a matter of fact, the concern with Munoz is that his stats at AAA in 2017 were right along the lines of where they were in 2016 during his first season at AA. He was young for both levels each time and that should be taken into account, but it's still worrisome. As you know by now, I find myself downgrading a players stats a great deal when they repeat levels. And that's how it should be.
His body type is weird, too. He did a good job of getting himself into better shape for 2017, but in the past he's been a little on the pudgy side. There are a lot of similarity between Munoz and former Cardinals SS/3B Jhonny Peralta. That's his ultimate peak. They have a similar body type/frame. Similar athleticism. Similar swings. Similar quickness. Munoz trumps Peralta tenfold with his arm and his defense appears to be better than Peralta's was at the same point, but Peralta was a better hitter with substantially more power than Munoz will show. Peralta hit 20+ HR in five different season. That's a task that Munoz won't come close to accomplishing.
If I'm comparing Munoz to anyone other than Jhonny Peralta it's Juan Uribe. Uribe has been a great role player for many teams and he's had a long career because he's a perfectly serviceable utility player. He's provided helpful power and average defense at multiple infield positions. Like with Uribe, there will probably be a time in the middle part of Munoz' career where he is a capable starter, but Munoz is perfectly built to enter the annals of history as a great utility player.
As always, these articles can't be done without Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. They are equally as reliant on the skills of Cardinalsgif's and NChill17. It's a pleasure to do this list with my friend Colin Garner at The Redbird Daily.
Thanks For Reading!