The Cardinals have made a roster move in advance of tonight’s wild card game with the Dodgers, designating right-hander Seth Elledge for assignment. The transaction opens up a 40-man space for the Cards to select the contract of first baseman Juan Yepez from Triple-A.
It is quite the opportunity for the 23-year-old Yepez, who has never played in a MLB game but could now get his first taste of the big leagues in the October spotlight. While it’s safe to assume Yepez might be the proverbial last man on the 26-man depth chart for tonight’s game, the fact that the Cards are giving this spot is a sign of confidence in what Yepez could provide as a potential x-factor.
Acquired from the Braves in the Matt Adams trade in 2017, Yepez’s bat didn’t really start to heat up until 2019, when he jumped from A-ball to Double-A in his age-21 season. After not playing in 2020 due to the canceled minor league season, Yepez suddenly exploded this year, batting a combined .286/.383/.586 with 27 home runs over 434 combined plate appearances for Double-A Springfield (77 PA) and Triple-A Memphis (357 PA). Yepez’s slash lines were almost identical at each level.
This breakout was enough to merit a #27 ranking on MLB Pipeline’s list of Cardinals prospects. Pipeline’s scouting report cites Yepez’s “high exit velocities” and gap power, plus an increased maturity at the plate and an ability to make swing changes. Yepez has mostly played first base in his career, but could also fill in at third base or a corner outfield slot in a pinch.
Elledge made his MLB debut in 2020, and pitching in each of the last two seasons, the righty has a 4.63 ERA over 23 1/3 career innings out of the St. Louis bullpen. A high 13.5% walk rate has been Elledge’s biggest issue, and he has shown similar control issues over 70 innings at the Triple-A level.