This article was originally published at the Redbird Daily by Colin Garner, and is now proud to call the Cards Conclave home. Throughout July, we’ll be re-running all 30 Prospect articles as we lead up to Colin’s Mid-Season Prospect Update later in the month.
In Collaboration with Kyle Reis and Birds On The Black, Colin Garner presents you with The Cardinals Top 30 Prospects! Today, we have #17, Yairo Muñoz.
17. Yairo Muñoz – 3B/SS
Signed by the A’s on January 27, 2012
Entering age-23 season
AA wRC+: 140, AAA wRC+: 86
|2017||22||-3.4||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AAA-AA||OAK||112||477||446||65||134||26||4||13||68||22||5||21||81||.300||.330||.464||.794||207||13||2||1||7||1|
What I Like
I have a lot more positive notes on Muñoz than I do negative. First, he had a strong showing across two levels last season. His slash line of .300/.330/.464 is very good, although a slight uptick in OBP would be desirable. His swing, as you can see in the video below, is part Marcell Ozuna and part Aledmys Diaz. The stance reminds me of Diaz, but that follow through looks just like Ozuna.
I love that he’s still playing shortstop. While Tommy Edman and Edmundo Sosa offer plus defense, Muñoz’s best tool is his bat. His offensive ceiling is significantly higher than that of either Edman or Sosa. Consider: neither Edman or Sosa have been above average at Double-A, and Muñoz was 40% above average for Midland last year. That type of offensive production provides a safety net should Paul DeJong crater this year like Diaz did last year, although I don’t anticipate that happening.
On defense, his best tool is his arm. Scouting reports from the ’16 AFL suggest he was raw at shortstop, but an entire season can make a huge difference on the defensive side of the scorecard (just ask DeJong). With his build, it’s hard to envision him ever being a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, but the organization has certainly shown a willingness to tolerate below average defense in exchange for above-average offense.
What I Don’t Like
Like I said, there’s not a lot of glaring holes in Muñoz’s game, especially if you assume a certain level of improvement with the glove. That being said, his swing can get loopy at times, which causes him to commit too early and become susceptible to breaking balls in the dirt. He also pulls nearly 50% of the pitches he puts in play, which, when paired with a super-low BB% (4.0%), creates questions as to how well his production will translate to the big league level.
Muñoz struggled when he was promoted to Nashville. His wRC+ suggests he was 14% below league average, even though his batting average looked pretty good. A big reason is that he didn’t walk enough. His OBP of .316 is way too low and needs to improve in 2018, which will be his second turn through the PCL.
My final concern is that, for somebody with very good raw power, he hit only 13 homers despite spending most of the season in a great hitting environment. Obviously, the pitchers were more advanced but I think Muñoz has the potential to be in the 15-18 homer range, at least. He’s a very important depth piece when injuries hit the major league club this season, and he’ll almost certainly make his debut in 2018, so he will be one of the most interesting Memphis Redbirds to watch this season.
Thanks for reading! As always thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for their statistics databases. Be sure to check out Kyle’s post tomorrow at Birds On The Black, and listen to Prospect To Be Named Later for even more minor league content.