photo: Juan Yepez (Memphis Redbirds)
It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This covers play during August across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates and their three rookie-level clubs.
Some months, the data is inconclusive, with a number of standouts each having a good case to be our choice as the Player of the Month. That is not the case in August.
With no suspense whatsoever, Memphis utilityman Juan Yepez is our selection. When you review the comparative data, you will see why there can be no debate.
In addition to the significant accomplishments of the winner, we will note other offensive standouts during the month, as well.
Please remember, this is NOT the “Player of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here, either.
To qualify, a player must have had at least 50 plate appearances in August. To make the list of finalists, which numbers nine, an OPS over .800 was required. In admirable balance, all seven minor league teams are represented by one or more finalists.
We will take two views of the data. First look will be at rate stats, followed by counting stats. Names are listed in the same sequence in both tables, in descending OPS order.
Rate stats – finalists
|Romtres Cabrera||DSL Red||0.283||0.415||0.491||0.906|
|Maycol Justo||DSL Blue||0.362||0.429||0.420||0.849|
As you can see, the discussion is over before it starts. Not only is Yepez tops in slugging and OPS, he is also second in batting average and on-base percentage. Look at the margins to the next-best hitter.
- Slugging – 202 points ahead of teammate Nolan Gorman
- OPS – 290 points ahead of Gorman and Thomas Francisco
In the two second-place categories, here is how close the Venezuelan native was to making a clean sweep:
- Batting average – just 7 points (.007) behind the leader
- On-base percentage – just 6 points (.006) behind the leader
In addition to the seven finalists batting .300 or better in August, Florida Complex League shortstop Jeremy Rivas batted .313 (.748 OPS). With a handful more plate appearances each, two of Rivas’ teammates, Adanson Cruz (.314 and .899 OPS) and Hansel Otamendi (.302 and .804) would have joined the finalists.
Non-drafted free agent Noah Mendlinger had a strong August at Palm Beach. The former Georgia College infielder batted .313 and walked an amazing 50% more often than he struck out (12 to 8). Put that together and the first-year player posted a system-best .459 OBP last month.
It is always difficult to put into full context stats generated in rookie leagues, and that is especially the case for the Dominican Summer League. Then again, the pitchers are of similar skill and development and a .362 batting average deserves attention wherever and whenever it is compiled. 18-year-old switch-hitting shortstop Maycol Justo of the DSL Blue posted that mark in August.
And we cannot take for granted the top prospect in the Cardinals system. Infielder Nolan Gorman’s slugging of .559 and OPS of .926 would have been enough to take this award many months. As it was, he was second to Yepez in both categories as he was in home runs and RBI (see below).
Counting stats – finalists
|Romtres Cabrera||DSL Red||16||53||15||15||2||3||1||8||6||22||6||3|
|Maycol Justo||DSL Blue||18||69||12||25||1||0||1||5||5||14||2||3|
The Yepez Show continues with his finalist-leading (and system-leading) double, home run and RBI totals. At least as impressive to me as his 10 doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI is his walk count of 14 exceeding his strikeout total of 13.
Second to Yepez in two-base hits is Peoria’s Tyler Reichenborn. Oddly, eight of the outfielder’s 10 August hits were doubles.
Given the rarity of the triple, it should not be surprising that three in a month posted by DSL Red outfielder Romtres Cabrera topped the system. The outfielder also swiped six bags in nine tries, third in the system after Peoria teammates Masyn Winn (12 of 14, .507 OPS) and Jordan Walker (8-for-8, .730 OPS).
Memphis infielder Kramer Robertson’s 20 runs scored led the Cardinals system last month.
August promotions taken
At least five hitting prospects moved up a level during August. Two did not miss a beat, one continued to be solid, while two others, Jacob Buchberger and Matt Koperniak, may need a little more time adjusting to High-A and Double-A, respectively.
Brendan Donovan had a very solid OPS of .770 at Springfield and improved it to .797 in his first shot at Memphis, but that left the infielder short of finalist qualification.
A shout out is warranted on behalf of Chandler Redmond. Unlike many others who take some time to acclimate to a new, higher level of play, the infielder continued to produce offensively, with an .857 OPS in his first partial month with Springfield. Redmond’s overall slugging of .533 was third in the system as was his total of five home runs in August.
The fifth and final promotee of note is also our prior Player of the Month.
Last month’s winner this month
The Cardinal Nation’s July Player of the Month, Nick Plummer, like Yepez is one of the biggest breakout stories of the system in 2021, having also become a professional in 2015.
St. Louis’ first-round draft pick that year received a well-deserved promotion to Memphis in late August. Though it is still early, the outfielder actually improved his results in his first week at his new, higher level.
Plummer’s OPS was .811 during his 19 games with Springfield this month, then shot up to 1.029 in his Triple-A introduction. His combined OPS of .865 placed the 25-year-old seventh among our August finalists.
Plummer’s long-standing forte, taking walks, continues with his system-leading total of 22 during the month topping his former Springfield teammate Nick Dunn by five.
The Player of the Month
Yepez’ career as a professional began way back in 2015 in the Atlanta Braves organization. He became a Cardinal the first time Matt Adams left the organization in May 2017. Then a third baseman, Yepez moved to first and later added the corner outfield positions as well.
The power potential was always there but never consistently showed itself previously, with his highest home run total in a season a modest 10 in 2019.
That changed in 2021 as the right-handed hitter swatted five long balls in his first 19 games at Springfield and has piled on 19 more over his first 74 career games at Triple-A. As noted, seven of those balls flew over the fence in August alone.
In 2021 between Springfield and Memphis, Yepez has 24 home runs, 64 RBI and an OPS of .980, making him a top contender for our Minor League Player of the Year honors to be announced after the season.
If Yepez finishes his year strongly, he could inject himself into the St. Louis reserve infielder/outfielder discussion in spring training 2022. He needs to first secure a 40-man roster spot, which he will almost certainly receive prior to the December Rule 5 draft.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s August Player of the Month, Juan Yepez.
What is next
Look for TCN’s Pitcher of the Month followed by The Cardinals organization’s announcement of its corresponding August Pitcher and Player of the Month winners this coming week, as well.
Late Friday afternoon, the Cardinals organization announced their corresponding awards for August. They also recognized Yepez.
Our Minor League Player of the Month is INF @Little_Juan07!
Yepez hit .355 with 10 doubles, 7 HR & 22 RBI in August and led all Triple-A hitters with a 1.216 OPS.
Since July 6, the 23-year old Venezuelan slugger leads all minor league players with a .763 slugging percentage! pic.twitter.com/WtNeaunwOH
— Cardinals Player Development (@CardsPlayerDev) September 3, 2021
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
Exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation
The Cardinal Nation 2021 Prospect Guide is back for a fourth year. It includes over 250 pages of in-depth commentary about the very best St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers, including dozens of color photos.
20% off Blowout Sale now underway on the spiral-bound, printed version.
Join The Cardinal Nation for the most comprehensive coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals from the majors through the entire minor league system.
© 2021 The Cardinal Nation, thecardinalnation.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.