Juan Yepez, 1B, STL

Some teenagers take the world by storm, but most teenagers are merely figuring out how to do the job they want to succeed at. The skills develop over time, and next thing you know you have a skilled worker. Meet former teenager Juan Yepez.

Video courtesy of 2080 Baseball
  • Born: February 19, 1998
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’1″, 200-lbs
  • Signed by the Atlanta Braves as a free agent out of Venezuela. Traded to St. Louis in the Matt Adams deal in 2017.

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

In the chart before this one we see a very slow climb up the minors. But then Yepez started that climb when he was 17. What were you doing as a 17-year-old? Yepez was facing pitchers two, three, four years older than he was, and hitting almost .300 against them, thank you very much.

Zeroing in on the three most recent years, after some struggles in 2016 and 2017, we see a player coming into his skills. Those yellows and red turn to blue and green, and then finally all green (other than the speed, but note he did steal 10 bases one season, so it’s not impossible for him to contribute a few).

So am I cherry-picking a sequence of years to build a narrative? Let’s back up:

For 2016-2018 he struggled. His K% rate was always good, if not excellent, but in those three years his walk rate was a poor 6%, and his power was low. As a pitcher, I wouldn’t have been afraid to throw him strikes either, for the power wasn’t there.

So yes, 2019 came as a beacon call to those who were watching that finally, after three years of slowly dropping his K% rate, and slowly increasing his ISO, suddenly the walk rate increased along with his power, and the OBP followed.

Was that a fluke year? 2020 didn’t give us much to go on, so fast-forward to 2021 and yep (it’s fun to say “yep” with Yepez — I can see the St. Louis headlines now after a good game by Juan), his numbers leapt forward. Now, other than speed, he is in excellent territory. Oh, and he did this at the best levels in minor league baseball.

In Double-A he destroyed LHP while not doing as well against RHP.

In Triple-A he destroyed RHP while doing fine against LHP.

OK, the Double-A sample size is small, so focus on the Triple-A stats. He got on base at a .382/.383 clip against both, but he had more power against righties.

Savant doesn’t show 2021, but we see his pull power on the home runs earlier in his career, but his doubles are to all fields, and now his power is in excellent territory to all fields.

The Scouts

Warnings

He’s a 1B prospect, so he has to hit and hit well to have any chance. And 1B is usually cluttered with hitters.

He’s now 23, has been in the minor leagues for seven years, and the scouts are still mostly ignoring him. Bad scouts!

Speed won’t be back on the menu, boys.

Conclusion

It’s hard to call him a pop-up prospect since he’s been grinding away for years. But he’s not been grinding, he’s been improving, and this past year he jumped up in a big way.

In 357 PA in Triple-A this year he hit .289/.382/.589 with 22 HRs and 25 doubles. There’s not much left to prove in the minors — he solved Triple-A. So while he has played 3B and both corner outfield spots, his defense is best at 1B, and the corner slots with the Cardinals are clogged.

But guys who hit the way Yepez just hit get chances. Look for him up in 2022, and look for him to do well. That kind of on-base ability and power play anywhere.

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