Ever since breaking into the majors last season, Juan Yepez has felt like an MLB-caliber talent without a spot to play. The Cardinals have consistent presences in the outfield corners and at first base, all three positions Yepez can play on defense, and just have not been able to find a spot for him.
Through 79 games in the majors, he has a combined 13 home runs and 31 runs batted in with an OPS+ of 112, suggesting he's been 12 percent above league average when he's played. He has always had a strong and reliable bat, but it's just been impossible for him to be an everyday player for the club.
As things currently sit, Yepez is in Triple-A with the Memphis Redbirds. He has hit six doubles and three home runs with 13 runs scored and 14 driven in across just 16 games. Last season, he hit .277 with 16 home runs in 50 games for Memphis, clearly showing that he's above a Triple-A-caliber player.
So, where would the Cardinals even plug him in? Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson, Tyler O'Neill, and Dylan Carlson are the top four outfielders on the big league depth chart at the moment, so there's no obvious fit there. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Gorman are the club's everyday options at first base and DH, respectively, so there's not an obvious spot there either.
At this point, it's getting close to crunch time for the Cardinals and Yepez. He is not a player that can be stashed in the minors for much longer, so is the best move to trade him? Perhaps. Even if O'Neill gets moved after all of the drama with Oli Marmol, Yepez would, at best, be the club's fourth outfielder, which is still not a direct path to consistent playing time.
It remains to be seen how Yepez will be able to fit into the big-league roster picture. Right now, the Cardinals are doing everybody a disservice by keeping him down in Memphis.