Name: Yairo Munoz
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 175
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in Jan. 2012
The 2016 season started with injury and didn’t get much easier from there for Yairo Munoz. Will the talented infielder be able to take his struggles from his first season in Double-A and turn them into a stepping stone for success in 2017?
Over the past three seasons, Munoz has been on an accelerated path through the A’s system. In 2014, the A’s planned to have Munoz repeat the Arizona Rookie League after he struggled in that league in 2013. He played well during extended spring training, earning a spot on the Vermont Lake Monsters’ Opening Day roster. It was expected that Munoz would return to Arizona once the A’s draft class started to sign and report to Vermont that season, but he played so well early for the Lake Monsters, he never left. Munoz finished the season as the Lake Monsters’ team MVP.
In 2015, the A’s jumped Munoz to Low-A Beloit. He got off to a strong start for the Snappers, earning a spot in the mid-season Midwest League All-Star game. However, he hit a mid-summer lull and saw his average drop more than 40 points from the beginning of June to the last week of July. Rather than have Munoz continue to struggle in the Midwest League, the A’s decided to give him a change of scenery when a Franklin Barreto injury left an opening in the Stockton Ports’ infield. Munoz grabbed hold of the opportunity with Stockton much like he did in Vermont, hitting .320 over the final 39 games of the season with the Ports.
Munoz’s 2016 season got off to a slow start when he injured his foot during spring training. That injury cost him the first three weeks of the season. On April 27, he joined the Double-A Midland RockHounds’ roster. He would be an everyday player for the RockHounds for the rest of the season, splitting his time between shortstop, third base and second base.
After a solid first week with the RockHounds, Munoz was ice cold at the plate for all of May and June. He hit a little better in July and August, but still finished the season with a .240/.286/.367 line. Munoz hit nine homeruns and had a 76:23 K:BB ratio. The A’s sent Munoz to the Arizona Fall League after the season so he could make up for the time he missed with the foot injury. After a cold start, Munoz had a strong finish for the Mesa Solar Sox and hit .270/.313/.365 in 74 at-bats.
Yairo Munoz Career Stats
Overall, Munoz didn’t have an impressive 2016 season, but there is still plenty of reason for optimism about his future. He played the entire season at age 21, making him several years younger than most of the pitchers he faced in the Texas League and in the Fall League. He demonstrated the ability to use the whole field while with the RockHounds and showed occasional pop in a league that can be tough on power hitters. Munoz also handled moving between three positions well, bringing value with the glove at all three spots.
Munoz is one of the top five-tool talents in the A’s system. He has above-average raw power for a middle infielder, the kind of hand-eye coordination that leads to hitting for average, one of the strongest arms in the A’s system (perhaps second only to Matt Chapman), quick feet and sure hands in the infield and above-average foot speed. What Munoz doesn’t have yet is polish. Despite five years of professional experience, he is still developing a consistent approach at the plate and in the field.
“He’s a candidate for plate discipline school. He’s been swinging early in the count and he’s taking a little longer to make that adjustment, but his tools are all there,” A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said. “He has a big arm; he has power. As another young guy, he needs to learn that as you advance, in predictable situations – like getting a 2-0 or 3-1 fastball – when you get into counts that you can hit in, they aren’t as predictable anymore against advanced pitchers. That’s what he is going to have to learn how to account for. His adjustment hasn’t been as easy, but he has been working at it. Sometimes it just takes a little bit longer.”
Last season, when Munoz guessed correctly on a pitch, he was able to do damage to it. His line-drive rate was 22%, his flyball rate was 21% and he only popped up the ball 13 times (3.65%). Munoz hit a lot of balls into the ground, however, a product of not timing pitches correctly and topping a lot of balls he may have been able to drive with better rhythm. Munoz still isn’t recognizing off-speed pitches consistently, something that will need to improve if he is going to be a major league regular.
Defensively, Munoz can be inconsistent at times, but he is capable of highlight reel plays at all three positions. He has the arm for the left-side of the infield and the athleticism to turn the double-play from both short and second base.
There is a lot that will need to go right for Munoz to put everything together, but if he does, he has Miguel Tejada-level talent on both sides of the ball. He also has a similar build to Tejada with the thicker lower half, although he is a few inches taller. Munoz will likely return to Double-A at the start of 2017. Repeating a level for the first time will be a good test for Munoz to see if he can make the adjustments necessary against advanced pitching to be considered for a major league spot. Munoz is in his first option year with the A’s and just turned 22, so he has some time left still to figure it all out.
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