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Hochman: What do Cardinals’ moves mean for Yairo Munoz in 2020?

Hochman: What do Cardinals’ moves mean for Yairo Munoz in 2020?

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St. Louis Cardinals' Yairo Munoz (34) is congratulated by teammate Kolten Wong (16) after scoring during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Where have you gone, Drew Robinson?

Oh, you’re now Brad Miller.

Miller is this year’s lefty-hitting infielder with big league service time to sign with St. Louis. The signing is another indication that Yairo Munoz might not have the “Yairo Munoz role” this coming season as a backup infielder.

“We do have a 26th man (allowed on the roster) this year, so anytime you bring somebody in, it’s impactful to others,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Thursday on an 82-degree day in Jupiter (though, there were clouds). “But everybody is here to compete, and that’s what this game is about. It allows Yairo an opportunity to compete. Similar flexibility, coming at it with maybe a few different skill sets or strengths. Yairo will get a lot of opportunity to play this spring — and at multiple positions.”

As the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold has reported, there’s a sense in the organization that Munoz could benefit from regular playing time in Class-AAA, opposed to spot appearances for St. Louis. Makes sense. It appeared that “Joltin’ Yairo” regressed in 2019. Or, if anything, didn’t grow the way you’d hope a 24-year-old would. Munoz, who seldom drew walks, slashed .267/.298/.355 in 181 plate appearances.

Now, back in 2018, the rookie Munoz made quite a splash. He hit eight homers in 329 plate appearances, while slashing .276/.350/.413.

The stat OPS+ is a good gauge for a player. An OPS+ of 100 is average. The highest one by a Cardinal last year was 120 from Tommy Edman. The highest in the National League was 185 from Christian Yelich. Well, in Munoz’s 2018 season, his OPS+ was 109. Last year? It was just 71.

What does Shildt hope to see from Yairo that can assure him that Munoz could be part of the club?

“Just the consistency,” Shildt said. “As Gary LaRocque our farm director, would say – Being able to consistently show how he’s going to beat the other team? How is he going to be able to bring his skill sets to have a positive influence defensively, offensively, on the bases and in different spots? And coming off the bench and spot-starting.”

Munoz hasn’t arrived yet here to camp — position players don’t need to until Monday. Miller arrived Thursday. Miller batted .260 with 13 homers in the majors in 2019 with a .894 OPS, while playing for Cleveland and Philadelphia. He hit eight homers in a torrid September with the Phillies.

Tommy Edman, of course, is the super-utility player for the Cardinals — he will start many days, but just at different positions. Another infielder who could make the roster is Edmundo Sosa who has 13 big-league plate appearances.

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