A few days back I got word that the Braves were intrested in Matt Adams due to their first baseman Freddie Freeman being hit by a pitch from Toronto’s Aaron Loup. Freeman was leading the majors in slugging percentage when he was hurt, hitting .341 with 14 home runs. This afternoon the deal went down. The St. Louis Cardinals announced prior to tonight’s game with the San Francisco Giants that they have traded first baseman Matt Adams and cash considerations to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.
Braves general manager John Coppolella said Adams will be valuable to the Braves beyond his fill-in duty at first.
“He’s also played left field,” Coppolella said. “He’s a good bat off the bench. He will help us even when Freddie Freeman comes back to the Braves.”
Jace Peterson, a utility player, was the Braves’ first choice to take over at first base. Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart said the team had no first basemen in the minors ready to be a fill-in starter in the majors.
Coppolella said Adams is expected to join the team in time for Sunday’s game against Washington. He will be expected to handle the position, at least against right-handers.
Adams hit .292 with a homer and seven RBIs coming off the bench this season and playing some in the outfield. A move involving the 28-year-old Adams had been speculated since spring training after Matt Carpenter was picked to start at first base.
So his is this Juan Yepez? When Yepez was 19 he signed with the Braves organization as a non-drafted free agent in July 2014, out of Caracas, Venezuela. The right-handed hitting infielder compiled a .281 (125-for-445) batting average with 34 doubles, six home runs and 54 RBI in 120 games with three minor league affiliates since the start of the 2015 season. The 6-1, 200-pound Yepez opened the 2017 season at Single-A Rome, where he was batting .275 (39-for-142) with 13 doubles, one home run and 15 RBI in 35 games.
Yepez has a tall stance in the box, and he has an incredibly quick set of hands, which is what many viewed as his best raw tool when he was signed. Yepez can get the bat on a ball even when fooled, and as he continues to mature physically, he should be able to add more natural drive to the balls he hits. His home run this year was on a hanging slider, and it was a beautiful thing to watch him sit back on the pitch and trigger forward with such explosiveness and the ball just explode off of his bat.
I watch his approach at the plate, and that’s where I see some issues. In his pro career, that’s been an issue, certainly, as Yepez walked 5.4% of the time and struck out over 26% of the time in Danville last season after being promoted, and then he’s followed that up with nearly identical numbers this season (7.4%, 27.8%). His wrists probably play into that somewhat as he does have the ability to get to a lot of balls, and therefore is willing to expand the zone, but he has been guilty of expanding for more than he should be pursuing, especially on breaking pitches. The fielding is the biggest issue of all. Yepez struggles mightily in fielding balls that require him to range, and while he’s handled much of the first base work well, he’s been uncomfortable with digging a ball out of the dirt thus far, though with all due respect, he’s just learning the position, so if that’s what he still has to work out, I could handle that for a guy at low-A.