photo: Juan Yepez (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)
The second of The Cardinal Nation’s top two monthly awards to St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers goes to the top April hitter, Peoria first baseman Juan Yepez.
Welcome to the second installment of The Cardinal Nation’s monthly awards, recognizing the top performers across the St. Louis Cardinals system each month. Today’s focus is the best offensive player during April.
In the general sense, I do not recall a faster start offensively across the organization than what we saw with the four full-season clubs last month. 53 hitters were active during April. As the following table indicates, the bell curve distribution is definitely skewed toward the high side.
And what a high side it is.
As a point of reference, the average OPS across the entire Cardinals system in 2017 was .721.
To make the exclusive company of finalists, this month’s line was drawn at an OPS of 1.000 or higher. Six players made the cut, but one, infielder Ramon Urias, was culled out as he made just 28 plate appearances.
Each of the five finalists excelled in multiple areas. Here they are listed in OPS sequence from high to low.
Tyler O’Neill was so dominating for Memphis that he spent from April 19 to April 28 with St. Louis in his first taste of the Majors. Even so, the outfielder’s six long balls was tied later in the month by Palm Beach second baseman Andy Young for the top total in the system.
Peoria’s Juan Yepez leads this group with 14 runs scored. The first baseman also hit seven doubles, one off the system lead of eight by Lane Thomas. The latter just missed our finalists with an OPS of “only” .972. More often than not, that would be a system-leading mark, but this month, it made the Springfield outfielder an honorable mention only.
Yepez is also the “burner” of the finalists, with two triples and the only stolen base (and the only one to try!). Four other Cardinals farmhands also had a pair of two-base hits to share the system lead with Yepez, while the April stolen base leader is Memphis outfielder Oscar Mercado, with nine in 14 attempts.
In terms of productivity, Springfield first baseman John Nogowski is the man, with 22 RBI in 21 games. That is some pace! His total leads both the Cardinals system and the Texas League.
The next view is of walks, strikeouts and the slash rate totals of batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, and on-base plus slugging. The sequence of names is the same as above.
In a very impressive stat, three of the five either walked more than they struck out (Nogowski and his teammate, catcher Andrew Knizner) or were just one away (Yepez). Yepez posted the highest walk rate while Nogowski had the lowest strikeout rate. O’Neill was at the wrong end of both measures among the finalists.
The system boasted two .400 hitters during April, with both Yepez (Midwest) and Knizner (Texas) leading their respective circuits. Nogowski is also second in the Double-A league.
In another eye-opening stat, Yepez fell just short of a .500 on-base percentage for the month, with Knizner not far behind. O’Neill’s slugging dominated the group. In OPS, O’Neill barely edged Yepez.
The most frequently mentioned player here is also the youngest at 20 years of age. Yepez has been in the Cardinals system just over 11 months, having been St. Louis’ take in the Matt Adams trade with Atlanta last May 20. Though back in the MWL for a second go-around in 2018, Yepez is still young for the Class-A league. The native of Venezuela is currently TCN’s no. 42 prospect and rising.
Among our finalists, Yepez leads in runs scored, doubles, triples, walk rate, batting average, on-base percentage and is narrowly second in OPS. For those accomplishments, Juan Yepez is The Cardinal Nation April Player of the Month.
Prior related article
The Cardinals organization also gave its April Player of the Month honors to Yepez. We agree!
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