I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.
I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).
There is also a group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.
To prepare you for the first part of this countdown, the back seventh of these rankings are comprised of what I'm going to call "Misfits." Think of this group of players as being on the fringes of prospect status for one reason or the other, yet still needing a little shout out or love.
Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each post, and I've done some medium editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please let me know what you think!
Juan Yepez – Age 22 (On Opening Day)
Peoria, Palm Beach, & Springfield
Acquired for Matt Adams in 2017
DON'T GIVE UP ON JUAN YEPEZ JUST YET.
I think what I find most striking about Yepez is how young he still is. He'll be a 22-year-old for all of 2020, and he's done a tremendous job of adding muscle to his frame. Take a look at the next two gifs. In the first, you'll see Yepez circa April 2018. Next, take a look at the following gif. In that gif, you should notice a couple of things. First, you'll notice a substantial increase in muscle mass in his upper-half. The second thing that you should notice is that Yepez ROCKS this pitch. Stick around for the third thing that you'll notice, which is a 60-grade batflip (this should also go to illustrate how a prospect can go from being on the fringes to being on the radar, lightning-quick).
After starting the 2019 season in extended spring training when camp broke, Yepez obviously dedicated himself to getting in better playing shape.
You'll see in the stats above that it didn't take Yepez long to show that he was too talented to repeat the Midwest League. He crushed that league in 2018, so using that as a springboard to the Florida State League had to be a bit of a sobering experience. What was encouraging, in particular, was that Yepez owned by the Florida State League one season after being owned by it. So, to see him light that league on fire in 2019 to a tune of a 131 wRC+, while adding four doubles and four home runs over 115 plate appearances was awesome. His slash line of 275/351/431 might not be the most impressive, but that should go to show you just how difficult it is to impress offensively in the Florida State League.
That takes us to his time in Springfield, where he kinda struggled over a tiny sample of 59 plate appearances. He did hit two home runs and two doubles in that small sample, and he kept his walk rate above 8%. Unfortunately, his K rate went up to 23.7% at Springfield from 18.3% at Palm Beach. However, NONE OF THIS BUGGED ME AT ALL. What I saw was that Yepez stinging EVERYTHING. On top of that, you could tell that his approach had improved tremendously and that he was more comfortable in the box. I believe that I saw Yepez hit one of the furthest home runs during the 2019 season for a Cardinals minor leaguer while at Springfield. I was told that the data had the exit velocity at 107 MPH.
One thing that has clearly helped Yepez is that he has lowered the starting position of his hands. His swing is still quick and direct, but without the added time needed to get his hands down. I have to believe that this has greatly aided his offensive progression. While I mentioned that his upper-body has clearly gotten stronger, it's also pretty clear that his lower-body is providing him with a more stable foundation. He has very quick hands obviously, and this is why he has a tendency to go pull-side so frequently. He's still often more hands than anything else, but his lower half is clearly getting more involved. Yepez does a great job of staying back on the ball, but sometimes he's swinging from his heels. Even with these complaints, I love the strides that he's made so far.
Defensively, I still feel like I'm learning about Yepez. The best wager would be that he sticks at first, but he seems agile enough to play a corner outfield spot. I'm holding off on giving my full thoughts of him in the outfield until I see more. From what I have seen, I'd describe those outfield abilities as "adequate." In the past, he really struggled at third. That's why he was moved to first base after being acquired for Matt Adams in July of 2017. In a very limited reintroduction to the position during the 2019 season, Yepez seemed "fine" there. Just like with his time in the outfield, I'm going to need to see more before I have a real feel for it. Again, "adequate" is the term that I'd use to describe what I have seen. My real concern so far is that his first step seems to be a bit slow. Then again, maybe he gets a little more comfortable with the bulk that he puts on in 2020, thus changing the topic of conversation by the end of the season. I'm anxious to see.
What the 2020 season has in store for Yepez is going to be something to watch. Yepez comes from a great family, and he's a great kid. It's nice to see this type of person start to have success in the upper levels of the minors. This is especially true because of how hard he's worked scholastically, at the same time. While it still appears that Yepez's future is at first base long term, it's nice to hear and see positive returns from his work at both third base and in the outfield during the 2019 season.
Offensively, big strides were made once he finally got on the field. There are still some mechanical issues to work out, but the muscle that he put on is providing a good foundation for him. In the past, Yepez has shown flashes of what he's capable of. Now is the time to see him put it all together. I'm not nearly as bullish on him as I'd like to be. However, a hot start to the 2020 will push him quickly up the D35. Yepez is a young man that has been faced with adversity, but has managed to grow and develop through all of it.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. What a mensch. The level for which I will be forever in debt to this man is immeasurable. If we were all as kind to each other as Gif's has been to me then we'd be in the best place possible as a community. On Valentine's Day, I challenge everyone to be as empathetic and reasonable as possible. Life is miserable. The act of being human is spiteful by nature. Remember, we control that. The act of being hateful and spiteful to those that are hateful and spiteful isn't the way of the righteous. It's the way of the hateful and spiteful. Take the high road. Be better. Suppress the hate. Love your enemies. There's nothing that brings people together like hatred for others. We should be better than that. Empathize. Be happy. Even in the face of hate. Remember, you control your actions and your reactions. If I could say sorry to everyone about everything 100 times over, I would. I am.
Happy Valentine's Day. I love you. All of you.
Have a great day everyone,