Why Juan Yepez is important for St. Louis in 2023
After being named the Cardinals' 2021 Co-Player of the Year for their Minor League system with Jordan Walker, big expectations were placed on the shoulders of Juan Yepez entering Spring Training. Given the opportunity to win the designated hitter job out of camp, Yepez struggled during camp and was sent to Triple-A after the club signed Albert Pujols for one last run in St. Louis.
Little did anyone know, Pujols' presence would have a huge impact on Yepez directly, as the then 24-year-old followed Pujols around everywhere, learning from the future Hall of Famer and making a major impact of his own throughout the year. In 76 games played, Yepez slashed .253/.296/.447 with 12 HR and 30 RBI. In the postseason, Yepez drove in their only two runs of the series with a huge pinch-hit home run in Game 1.
In 2023, the Cardinals are hoping Yepez can be a primary DH option for the club, improving upon the power he tapped into last season and replacing a lot of Pujols' production from the year before. With so many quality position players seeking at-bats though, Yepez will have to perform at a very high level for consistent playing time.
ZiPS currently projects Yepez to slash .263/.315/.476 with 24 HR and 74 RBI and a 118 OPS+ in 480 plate appearances in 2023. The Cardinals would love that kind of production from Yepez this year, and he would surely find at-bats at DH and in the corners if that happens. What's really interesting about Yepez is the large variations in his projections. ZiPS has his 80th percentile outcome as a 40% above league average hitter, while his 20th percentile outcome is slightly below league average.
This makes Yepez one of the more important Cardinals on this roster, as if his bat plays up to its potential, he's another slugger that the club can insert into their order as often as possible. If Yepez struggles, the club has other options, but they lose out on having another powerful right-handed hitter in their lineup.
Would you have Yepez higher on this list? Should he have even made it? Check in each day as we rank the 20 most important Cardinals for 2023.