I couldn’t have been more wrong about my expectations for Yairo Muñoz this season. He was the chubby shortstop we got for Stephen Piscotty, as compared to the hitting machine Max Schrock. Paul DeJong had already claimed shortstop for himself. Muñoz wasn’t going to move Wong off of second base like Schrock. Then there’s the fact he couldn’t hit in his first shot at AAA. What didn’t help is that he had appeared to have gained weight coming into spring training as compared to when he had last played in 2017.
Munoz has absolutely gained weight, and it doesn’t look like the good kind. He’s struggled with his weight in the past, too. He was fit during 2017. https://t.co/9xTSrOjsk2
— Kyle Reis (@kyler416) March 1, 2018
Of course like any good fan, this would set off some alarms. Just consider the way everyone looks down upon Pablo Sandoval for his apparent issues. We could jump to conclusions like that he’s lazy perhaps, or just doesn’t care about what he does. Then Muñoz was able to spark interest from fans when he had a terrific spring training offensively. That interest quickly died off when the season began and hit terribly in April with sporadic playing time. This led to his demotion.
When the club lost DeJong for a significant period of time with a broken hand, Muñoz was given a shot to redeem himself, and he has played a crucial role on this team ever since.
Of the players who had 120 plate appearances at shortstop from May 19th-July 19th (DeJong’s timeline), Muñoz was all you could ever ask for and more. Out of 27 qualifying shortstops in that time period, he was the 10th best hitter, with a wrc+ 114. What looked like a weak spot in the lineup without the power from DeJong was quickly filled with an easy solution. How did he do it? Yairo kicked it up a notch by hammering the ball. With the 6th highest hard hit % of shortstops, his abnormally high amount of ground balls (54.9%) were finding holes.
The reason we’re all starting to revere Yairo Muñoz is because of this simple reason. He delivers in the clutch. When it matters most, he comes through.
Batting with RISP– 15-47 (.319), 22 RBIs, .964 OPS
Batting with Men On- 28-85 (.329), 27 RBIs, .925 OPS
Even with Paul returning to the Cardinals, he was still able to find himself useful. Knee inflammation from Kolten Wong, illness from Jedd Gyorko, and now a broken foot for Dexter Fowler. He’s the main reason why the Cardinals haven’t suffered from losing these players. Being able to play most positions (except for catcher) in a pinch is extremely valuable.
In 14 games played since DeJong returned, he’s still kept it up with a .293/.383/.488 slash line in 41 at bats.
He Needs To Keep Playing
You don’t reward a player for keeping the team afloat by benching him. With Wong’s DL stint coming to an end, his playing time will again be shuffled between him, Wong, and Jedd. For whatever reason, DeJong will likely be given every chance to regain his power stroke. Maybe that’s all he is to the Cardinals, a utility infielder. But you have to ride the hot hand while you can, and since Muñoz keeps coming through for the Cardinals, make room for starts at shortstop until he shows you otherwise.
Thanks for reading!