Juan Yepez, Jordan Walker and Matthew Liberatore named Cardinals 2021 Minor League co-players and pitcher of the year

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, March 16, 2022 – The St. Louis Cardinals today announced their 2021 Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year selections, honoring the first baseman Juan Yepezthird baseman Jordan Walker and left-handed pitcher Matthew Liberator for their achievements in the field. This is the first time since the award’s inception in 1995 that co-recipients have been selected for Player of the Year honors.

“We are thrilled to recognize Matthew Liberatore, Juan Yepez and Jordan Walker as our organizational minor league pitcher and co-player of the year,” said Jean Mozeliak, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations. “Matthew and Juan stood out at the Triple-A level while Jordan quickly adapted to full-season ball with a strong first season. We are delighted with the progress all three players have made in their development.

Yepez, 24, has cut .286/.383/.586 with 27 home runs, 29 doubles, 77 RBIs and a .969 OPS in 111 games for Memphis (AAA) and Springfield (AA). The Venezuelan native led all Cardinals minor league players in home runs, doubles, RBIs, strikes and OPS and was Top 5 in hits (105, 5th), walks (51 , 5th) and races (67, 5th).

After putting up a .958 OPS in 19 games to start the season at Springfield, Yepez was promoted to Memphis on June 1. He went on to lead all Triple-A East hitters in slugging (.589) and OPS (.971), while also ranking in the Top 10 in average (.289, 10th), on-base percentage (.382, 5th) , home runs (22, T-5th) and extra hits (47, T-6th), despite playing in just 92 games. Yepez was named the Cardinals’ August Minor League Player of the Month and a playoff Triple-A Star. He was added to the Major League roster for the first time in his career for the National League Wild Card Game in Los Angeles on October 6, but did not appear.

Following his successful minor league season, Yepez entered the 2021 Arizona Fall League earning co-hitter of the year honors, hitting .302 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. He ranked in the Top 10 among AFL leaders for homers (T-2nd), RBI (2nd), slugging (.640, 4th) and OPS (1.028, 8th) and was named All- Fall League star.

“Juan had a stellar season in 2021, hitting for average and power, with good plate discipline in the top two tiers of the minor league and the Arizona Fall League,” the general manager said. Assistant and Director of Player Development, Gary LaRocque.

Yepez is the first Cardinals minor league player of Latin descent to win Player of the Year honors since outfielder Magneuris Sierra won in 2014 and fifth overall Oscar Taveras (2012), Albert Pujol (2000) and Pablo Ozuna (1998). He was acquired from the Atlanta Braves for 1B Matt Adams in May 2017 and joined Tyler O’Neill (2018) as the Cardinals’ second minor leaguer who was not initially drafted or signed by the club to win the award. Coming in 2022, Baseball America ranks him 9th overall in the organization’s outlook and named him “Best hitter for average” in their Top Tools poll. He is also ranked 7th among first base prospects by the same publication.

Walker, 19, cut .317/.388/.548 with 25 doubles, four triples, 14 homers, 14 stolen bases and a .936 OPS in 82 games for Low-A Palm Beach and High-A Peoria. The club’s 2020 first-round selection from Stone Mountain, Georgia, was the Cardinals’ only minor leaguer with at least 14 homers and 14 stolen bases in 2021 and ranked among the Cardinals’ minor league leaders in batting average (2nd ), on-base percentage (9th), slugging (3rd), OPS (2nd), hits (103, T-6th), extra-base hits (43, 4th), home runs (T-8th), doubles (5th ), runs (63, 7th) and stolen bases (T-5th).

He wasted no time in making his professional debut, hitting a home run on the very first pitch he saw as a member of the Palm Beach Cardinals on May 4 at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Despite missing 19 games with a wrist injury, Walker thrived with a .374 average, 1.162 OPS and 18 extra hits in 27 games, earning Low-A Player of the Week honors twice. Southeast. He was promoted to Peoria on June 29 and named the Cardinals’ June Minor League Player of the Month.

In 55 games at Peoria after his promotion, Walker led the Chiefs with 66 hits, eight home runs, 25 extra hits, 27 RBIs, 39 runs and an .831 OPS. He finished the 2021 season with a .418 ERA and .821 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.

“Jordan had a terrific start to his career and continued to develop and improve as one of the youngest players at the High-A level,” LaRocque said.

Walker is the first Cardinals minor league player to earn Player of the Year honors playing exclusively under Double-A since outfielder Magneuris Sierra (Gulf Coast League Cardinals) in 2014. Entering this season, Baseball America named him the organization’s top overall prospect and “top power hitter” in its Top Tools survey. He also ranks first among third base prospects and 24th overall prospect by the same publication.

Liberatore, who had yet to pitch over Low-A before the 2021 season, spent the entire season at Triple-A Memphis at the age of 21, finishing the season with a 9-9 record and a 4.04 ERA in 22 games. . In his first season playing in the Cardinals organization, he set career highs and led all Cardinals minor league pitchers in wins, strikeouts (123), innings pitched ( 124.2) and matches started (18).

Liberatore was named the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Month in June, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.42 ERA in four starts. He won the award again in August after posting a 2.84 ERA over four starts, including three consecutive 7.0 inning outings allowing just three earned runs overall. The 6’4” southpaw finished the season strong with a 2.67 ERA and 57 strikeouts in his last 10 appearances (57.1 IP).

“Matthew was challenged early at the Triple-A level, worked hard to reach and surpass the league level and finished the season as one of our most consistent pitchers in the system,” LaRocque said.

In June, the Peoria, Arizona native helped USA Baseball qualify for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, allowing just two runs from two starts (9.2 GI) with eight strikeouts. . A month later, he started for the National League in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field, working a perfect first frame and striking a trio of top-10 prospects from 13 pitches.

Selected in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018 and acquired by the Cardinals via trade in 2020, Liberatore is the first left-handed pitcher to win the award since Austin Gomber earned co-pitcher of the year honors in 2015. Liberatore enters the upcoming season as the organization’s top pitcher for the third consecutive season and No. 50 overall according to Baseball America.

Comments are closed.