The weather around the Midwest League has been downright frigid to begin the season, but Juan Yepez and his red-hot bat have been on a mission to heat things up. Yepez was named MWL Player of the Week for April 5-15, becoming the first Peoria player to win the award since Harrison Bader took home the hardware August 24-31 of 2015. The 6-1, 200 pound, twenty year-old first baseman has racked up 16 hits including two triples, 12 RBI, twenty-six total bases and an eye-popping 1.338 OPS in just 30 at-bats.
Acquired in the Matt Adams trade with Atlanta, Yepez has acquitted himself nicely at the professional level. He was not ranked in the Atlanta organization, despite collecting a $1 million signing bonus as a free-agent out of Venezuela. Furthermore, Yepez was considered just organizational depth by some evaluators, but after hitting .260 with seven home runs and 47 RBI in 80 games in 2017, he helped propel the Chiefs to the MWL playoffs.
The knock on Yepez has always been focused on his defense and some scouts believed that a move to first base from third was inevitable. As far as the bat is concerned, he’s an advanced hitter with quick, strong hands and wrists, while maintaining a compact and powerful swing. He’s prone to chase pitches out of the zone, which explains his strikeout issues at times, but he’s only logged four strikeouts thus far in 2018, showing nice progress with his plate discipline. With his high hitting competence combined and some improvement defensively, Yepez has the tools and ability to become a high-upside option at first base for the Cardinals down the road.
And now some quick highlights from around the league:
Bryce Conley – The Beloit Snappers right-hander was named pitcher of the week after striking out four in six innings and helping his staff combine to no-hit the Burlington Bees last Thursday. Conley leads the Midwest League in WHIP with a 0.20 mark and is tied with three others for the lead in LOB% at 100.
Resly Linares – Coming off a horrendous season-opening start, Linares bounced back to toss seven scoreless frames on his way to striking out seven and allowing just two West Michigan baserunners in a 2-1 loss Wednesday night. Relying on a fastball that sat 91-94 and a curveball that played slightly above average for most of the outing, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect kept hitters off-balance and guessing for the entirety of his dominant performance. His command will ultimately dictate whether or not he remains a starter as he progresses through the system.
Jasrado Chisholm – The D’Backs’ third ranked prospect is having an excellent April thus far, blasting two home runs and batting .290 with two steals. While the 5-11, 165 pound shortstop is known for his power, he’s had to altar his approach since returning from a knee injury late last season. He’s focused more on making better contact on off-speed pitches instead of chasing fastballs to avoid those situations. Slowing things down a bit has helped the 20 year-old produce a .451 wOBA and 173 wRC+ through the nine games this season.
Jose Herrera – Herrera has been suspended fifty games without pay after testing positive for methylhexaneamine and Oxilofrine according to Zach Buchanan of The Athletic Arizona. He’ll be sidelined through May and will begin serving his suspension immediately. He slashed a lowly .208/.261/.290 in 58 games for Kane County last season.
Garett King – Drafted by the Tigers in the 11th round out of California Baptist University in 2017, King has racked up 16 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched this season. He features above-average command of his fastball and his curveball, which rates as above-average has been his “out” pitch to date in 2018. His issue, like many other young arms is the development of a solid third pitch. If he can manage to find some consistency with a third offering, King will have no problem sticking in the rotation at advanced levels.
Donnie Sellers – The Lansing righty has punched out fifteen batters in just eleven innings of work, including 12 in his five inning outing vs Fort Wayne last week. The knock on Sellers is his 5-11, 180 pound frame. Evaluators question whether he’ll be able to handle the workload of starting every fifth day as he advances. His changeup and slider need a bit of work to become useful options beyond Low-A.
Jared Young – Leading the South Bend Cubs in batting average (.406), runs (10) and home runs (2) highlights just how hot of a start the 22 year-old second baseman out of Old Dominion is having to this point. His 253 wRC+ is third best in the MWL, while his 1.316 OPS ranks second. Young’s compact swing from the left side is almost picture-perfect to witness live and the ball explodes off his bat in a violent manner. Young’s stay in South Bend could be short if he continues to rake at this level.