One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Juan Yepez
Season stats: 76 G, 274 PA, 27 R, 13 2B, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 16 BB, 61 K, .253/.296/.447, 111 OPS+, 0.4 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR
Statcast: .286 xwOBA, 9.2 barrel %, 86.5 exit velocity, 33.7 hard hit %, 22.3 K %, 5.8 BB %
Best Statcast category: Max Exit Velocity (95th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (38th percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 7, Goat 5
Positives: Made his major league debut May 4, completing his journey from lottery ticket received for Matt Adams to major leaguer….hit a huge home run in the playoffs which looked to give the Cardinals a Game 1 win….had two three-hit games….had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Marlins in June….hit roughly the same against lefties and righties, though 10 of his homers came off of lefties….hit .292 with five homers in May….was great off the bench, going 5-13 with a homer….hit .400 (2-5) as a pinch-hitter….in his five games batting seventh put up a 1.103 OPS….had a .858 OPS when he took the first pitch….hit .290 on the first pitch, however….had a sequential 1.234 OPS when ahead in the count….five of his home runs came with two outs….hit .286 with an .840 OPS in late and close situations….was 2-2 with three RBI in extra innings….had a .962 OPS in the second inning….hit .304 against fly ball pitchers….had a .918 OPS in day games….was in the top 5% of the league in maximum exit velocity….eight of his homers came off of fastballs, against which he hit .275….had a .277/.341/.580 line at Memphis with 16 homers….spent a lot of time soaking up knowledge from Albert Pujols.
Negatives: Hit .237 at Busch Stadium, though his homers were evenly distributed between home and away….hit .149 in July….in his five games batting second put up a .248 OPS….had a .451 OPS when behind in the count….hit .192 when nobody was out in an inning…..had a .646 OPS with runners in scoring position…..hit .200 with two outs and RISP though with a .773 OPS….had a .616 OPS in high leverage situations….hit .148 in the eighth inning….hit .169 against power pitchers….hit .217 against the Cubs….had a .536 OPS against the Brewers….hit .152 against offspeed pitches.
Overview: Good for Juan Yepez though! A player that seemed like a negligible return in 2017 made it all the way up to the majors and proved that he belonged there in 2022. Staying there, that proved to be the trick. Yepez went on the injured list July 15 and when he was ready to come back, Pujols was surging in the DH spot, Paul Goldschmidt was having an MVP season at first, and Lars Nootbaar was pretty established in right field. There wasn’t a lot of regular ABs for a guy like Yepez and he wound up getting the worst of the roster squeeze, spending most of his August and half his September in Memphis. He had a strong enough resume to make the postseason roster, though, and provided one of the few highlights of that short October stay.
Outlook: Yepez’s defense, while manageable, still probably means the less time he’s in the outfield, the better. With Pujols’s retirement, there’s a clear path for him to at least get a majority of the DH time and that is likely the plan for next season. There’s a non-zero chance that he gets moved in the offseason, especially if the Cardinals make a major trade, but his hit tool will get him a lot of major league time next year with someone and it will be very interesting to watch him get even more of an opportunity.