Juan-derful season debut for Chiefs' Yepez

Cardinals prospect homers twice, plates seven on four-hit night

Juan Yepez drove in more runs in one game than he did in his final 18 contests last season. (Allison Rhoades/Peoria Chiefs)

By Michael Avallone / MiLB.com | June 5, 2019 12:51 AM

Juan Yepez collected nine RBIs through his first seven games in 2018. That was nothing compared to what he did Tuesday night.

The St. Louis first-base prospect made his season debut one to remember, going 4-for-4 with a pair of homers and a career-high seven RBIs to power Class A Peoria past Quad Cities, 12-5, at Dozer Park.

It was the sixth four-hit game of Yepez's career and his first since April 25, 2018 with the Chiefs.

Video: Chiefs' Yepez rips second homer to left-center field

Chiefs manager Erick Almonte was understandably impressed with his first extended look at the Venezuela native.

"He put some big numbers last year [with Peoria], but struggled after his promotion," the former Major League infielder said. "I didn't see much of him during Spring Training. There are so many guys and he was working out with the Double-A and Triple-A players, so today was really the first time I got a chance to see him play."

Yepez got his season off to a bang -- literally -- with a three-run homer to left-center field on the first pitch he saw to pull Peoria even, 3-3, in the second inning. In his next at-bat he blasted a two-run shot to left-center for his second career multi-homer game and the first since June 11, 2017, also with the Chiefs.

The 21-year-old singled to left in the fifth, walked in the sixth and completed his four-hit night with a two-run single in the eighth that gave him a personal-best seven RBIs. They eclipsed his previous career high of five, set on Aug. 8, 2017 for Peoria.

Gameday box score

"His mentality from his first at-bat on was great," Almonte said. "He got that first pitch and drove it right out of the ballpark and was locked in for the rest of the night. It was fun watching the guys swing the bats. The hitters did a great job of putting good at-bats together and finding the gaps. It was fun coaching third today, that's for sure."

Obtained from the Braves in a May 2017 deal for Matt Adams and cash, Yepez hit .260/.308/.388 in 80 games with the Chiefs that season. He got off to a scorching start last year in the Midwest League, where he carried a .415/.462/.596 slash line through 25 games to earn a promotion to Class A Advanced Palm Beach. His numbers dipped in the pitching-friendly Florida State League and he ended up with a .269/.320/.378 line and 42 RBIs in 92 games.

"We all know what Juan is capable of doing with the bat," Almonte said. "We saw that tonight, but he's also produced some big games before, especially the first two months last year. Hopefully he can keep doing that while he's here and beyond. It's easy to forget how young he is. I hope the other guys were watching him tonight and keep watching how he approaches his at-bats and goes about his job."

2019 MiLB include

Brady Whalen and Bryce Denton -- who sandwiched Yepez in the lineup -- finished with three hits and an RBI apiece. The trio combined to go 10-for-14 with three extra-base hits, nine RBIs and six runs scored to pace a 13-hit attack in which a season-high nine went for extra bases. The 12 runs were also a season high for the Chiefs.

Peoria starter Colin Schmid (3-1) picked up the win after allowing three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five in five innings.

Astros No. 28 prospect Ross Adolph hit a two-run homer and doubled for the River Bandits.

Quad Cities starter Jose Bravo (0-1) was charged with a career-worst seven runs on six hits and two walks with one strikeout in three frames.

Michael Avallone is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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