If there's one player on the Cardinals roster or in the organization that hasn't gotten his fair shot, it's Juan Yepez.
The 25-year-old outfielder and slugger burst onto the scene last year after Edmundo Sosa went on the COVID-19 injured list. Right away, he became a key factor in the Cardinals' lineup. In 76 games last year, he hit .253 with 12 home runs, 30 RBI, and a .743 OPS.
Yepez shined the brightest in the postseason last year. His biggest moment came in the Wild Card Series against the Phillies when he homered in Game 1 off of Jose Alvarado.
It was a pinch-hit homer that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, a lead that would ultimately be squandered by the bullpen. But Yepez's homer was the highlight of the Cardinals' postseason.
Sadly, the young slugger hasn't gotten much of a chance to prove himself this year. Instead, he has seemingly been cast aside in favor of players such as Alec Burleson and Taylor Motter, neither of whom have come close to what he was able to do last year.
Meanwhile, Dylan Carlson and Tyler O'Neill have continued to struggle in terms of production and health. Yepez has had a few stints in the big leagues this year but has only appeared in 20 games. In those games, he's hitting just .214 with two homers and two RBI.
Now, Yepez is back, and we don't know how the Cardinals are going to use him down the stretch. Either way, while this may be an unpopular opinion, I believe that he still deserves another chance, not just this year, but in 2024 as well.
Personally, I'm higher on Yepez than I am on guys like O'Neill, Carlson, or even Burleson. One drawback with Yepez is that he is a defensive liability. But at the plate, he can be dangerous.
I understand that he hasn't had a very good season, but I truly believe he hasn't gotten his fair shot. He's been used primarily against lefties, but his stats against righties were better last year than against lefties. In essence, he hasn't been used properly either.
Last year, he hit .253 against righties with 10 homers, 23 RBI, and a .756 OPS, while against lefties he hit two homers and drove in seven with a .695 OPS, though his average against lefties was slightly higher.
But against lefties, his stats weren't bad, and if used properly, Yepez could be a weapon off the bench or somebody the Cardinals can rotate in and out of the DH spot next year.
Unfortunately, he could still get crowded out due to the emergence of Richie Palacios as a potential fourth outfielder. This is mainly because of his defensive struggles.
If he can hit though, he can force his way into the Cardinals' plans. He's been hitting better at Triple-A lately, which is one reason why the Cardinals called him up. And with the 2023 season almost over and the Cardinals already guaranteed to finish under .500, now could be a perfect time for him to prove himself and show that he can be a key piece for the team in 2024.
He's also only 25, and if the Cardinals are looking for ways to improve offensively, they can look from within and find a spot for Yepez in the future. Trading away some outfielders such as O'Neill and Carlson may also help clear a spot for him.