We talk about a lot of prospects around here; between the annual lists and the daily farm reports and whatever I can come up with most Sundays, there’s a ton of chatter about various future redbirds going on most of the time.
What I want to do here today, then, in brief, is look at how a few of the players I’ve covered in depth at some point in the past have fared so far this season. I’m in a bit of a hurry this morning, and thus will be dispensing with much of the formality I normally cram into these things. So let’s us on, shall we?
Ramon Urias, SS/2B
I covered Urias not long after finishing up the official VEB prospect list this past offseason; the reason being he was not signed in time for me to include him on the list. He’s intriguing as a slick-fielding up the middle defender with some pop in his bat.
Well, Urias was sent to Memphis to open the season, and it...did not go well. He got into six games, came to bat seventeen times, and hit .071. His wRC+ was 11. It’s hard to really say much interesting about a six-game sample when a guy is just terrible, but he did walk 17.6% of the time. So that’s a thing. He also struck out over 35% of the time and ISO’d .071, but he was patient. And, you know, it was less than twenty plate appearances.
He was pushed down to Springfield in the middle of April, and proceeded to kick the crap out of the Texas League almost immediately. He’s currently hitting .458/.500/.708 over six Double A games (he just came off the seven-day DL a couple days ago), which is good for a 224 wRC+. He isn’t walking much, but when you’re hitting .450 it’s tough to really want to take too many pitches. So given what he did in Memphis, and what he’s doing currently in Springfield, I think we can very accurately determine that Ramon Urias is a 2.5 A player. Maybe a AAa player? Something like that, anyway. (Just kidding.) Certainly an exciting start to the season after a rough first handful of games, but we’re going to have to wait quite a while before we really see what he has.
Max Schrock, 2B
Schrock was one of the two players received in the Stephen Piscotty deal, with Yairo Munoz being the other. Schrock was the guy I preferred of the two, honestly, despite Munoz’s tremendous spring training.
Anyhow, Schrock is hitting .348/.397/.446 this season at Triple A Memphis. I predicted there would be a second base controversy by the first of June; for awhile there it looked like I way undershot that considering Kolten Wong’s rough start to the season. Wong appears to have righted the ship for now (-ish, anyway), but if Schrock continues to hit as well as he has, we’re going to have a thing brewing soon all the same.
Schrock has come to the plate 121 times this season; he has struck out ten times, and walked nine (once intentionally). His isolated slugging percentage of .098 is cause for concern, as even the best contact hitter can be rendered null and void if he has nothing but slap base hits in his arsenal, but I stand by my belief that high-contact hitters may be the next big thing in baseball, as we deal with an era of escalating strikeouts, teams pushing for player development leaps, and a lively ball at the big league level that could make for some interesting transitions from minor league slapper to major league slugger.
Yairo Munoz, UTI
Munoz was bad at the big league level. Like, really bad. He just didn’t look ready. And hey, that happens. Sometimes you make a decision based on a really great spring, and the guy comes back to earth. At least the Cards didn’t make the mistake of keeping him up here the whole way, letting him struggle over and over again at the big league level the way they have with Jordan Hicks.
Munoz has been okay in Triple A, but no better. He’s still awfully aggressive at the plate, walking just about 5% of the time, and his strikeout rate is a little higher than in the past at 19%. Overall he’s hitting just below a league average clip, with a 95 wRC+, but that’s mostly good batted-ball results, without a ton of power on contact. He needs time more than anything, to adjust and hopefully improve.
John Nogowski, 1B
I covered Nogowski all the way back in November, which convinces me how old I’m getting because it doesn’t seem like it should have been six months ago already. But, them’s the facts, and it was the beginning of November when I wrote about Nogowski, who was at the time serving on the taxi squad for the Cardinals in the Arizona Fall League.
Sad side note: Vince Jackson, the switch-hitting outfielder I covered along with Nogowski in that post, was released this spring. He’s 24, struggled at Palm Beach, and was playing in an organisation so loaded with outfielder they really don’t know what to do with them all. I liked Jackson’s potential, but there really weren’t going to be many opportunities for him in reality.
Nogowski, on the other hand, has excelled so far in 2018, building on the strong season he put up last year. Last season, he put up tremendous plate discipline numbers, walking more often than he struck out and getting on base nearly 38% of the time. There was basically no power in his profile, but he had outstanding contact skills and incredible command of the strike zone.
So what did he do for an encore? Well, he added power, that’s what. Oh, and he did so while becoming an even more extreme contact hitter. How’s that work? No idea, really. But he did it.
This year, Nogowski is hitting .365/.431/.552 in 109 plate appearances at Double A Springfield. His strikeout rate is a superhuman 6.4%. His walk rate is modest, at 9.2%, but that’s still almost 50% higher than his K rate. He’s also posting a .188 ISO with four homers on the season en route to a 163 wRC+. He hasn’t really changed his batted-ball profile all that much, with the exception of having a much higher HR/FB rate than he did last season. It’s somewhat less than ideal that he’s 25 years old at Double A, but considering the rather non-linear path he’s taken to get to this point, Nogowski’s performance this season, and specifically the fact he seems to have added the one thing he was lacking offensively, is still an amazing story.
The real problem, of course, is the same thing facing Luke Voit right now: a lack of opportunities in the organisation. How that plays out we’ll have to see, but Nogowski, at least in the early going, is one of the real stories of the minor league system.
Juan Yepez, 1B/3B
Yep, he’s the guy the Cardinals received in return for Matt Adams from the Braves. And this season, he’s doing some things.
Yepez will play the whole season at 20 years old, which is important to keep in mind. He spent last season at Low A, both in the Atlanta and St. Louis systems, and has returned to Peoria to begin this season.
Chances are, he’s not going to be there much longer.
This is Juan Yepez’s line this season: 24 G, 102 PA, .422/.471/.611, 9.8% BB, 12.7% K, 194 wRC+. He’s raised his walk rate by four and a half percentage points from last year at Peoria, and cut his strikeout rate by eight and a half points. His 2018 ISO of .189 is 76 points higher than last year. Is it concerning that his BABIP is .474 and thus completely unsustainable? Well, sort of. It’s not sustainable going forward, no, as he moves up the ladder, but one of the real meaningful indicators a player is simply too good for his level is an absurdly high BABIP, and in this case I believe that’s what we’re seeing with Yepez. He is ready, past ready, really, to move up.
And, of course, he needs to learn some position other than first base. But that seems to be a theme developing in the Cards’ system right now.....
I’m out of time, and had two or three other players I wanted to highlight. Oh well, I’ll get to them in another post. Get well soon, Yadi. And Yadi’s balls, too. That’s a rough evening right there.