Braves NRI In-Depth: Jose Yepez

Jose Yepez has had a long, slow climb through the Minor Leagues. He was originally signed out of his native Venezuela by the Blue Jays, and made his professional debut in 2001. After hitting just .192 with a .562 OPS for High A Dunedin in 2004, he was released, and spent the next 3 seasons in independent ball, playing for the Gary Southshore Railcats of the Northern League and the Pensacola Pelicans of the American Association. He returned to affiliated ball with the Mariners in 2008, splitting time between High A and AA, and worked his way up the organizational ladder the next few seasons, spending all of 2011 with AAA Tacoma, hitting .307 with a .846 OPS in 181 plate appearances. The Braves signed him as a Minor League free agent back in November.

Yepez has never been a full time starter, never topping 300 plate appearances in a season in affiliated ball, though he's been effective at the plate, hitting .270 with a .357 OBP and a .743 OPS over 2428 career plate appearances in 11 seasons. Behind the plate, he's an above average defensive catcher, good at calling a game and blocking balls, with a strong, accurate arm to boot. For his career, he's thrown out 29% of baserunners attempting to steal, and he had seasons in A ball, where the baserunners rely more on pure speed than guile or intelligence, where he came close to throwing out 50% of would-be thieves.

Yepez's invitation to Major League Spring Training is more indicative of the need for extra catchers during training camp than his chances of making Atlanta's roster, which are almost non-existent. Brian McCann and David Ross are firmly entrenched in Atlanta, and JC Boscan, who has seen time with the Braves each of the last two seasons, would be the first to be called up in case of emergency. Yepez will end up playing for either AA Mississippi or AAA Gwinnett, depending not only on his own performance in Spring Training, but also on how younger catchers like Matt Kennelly, Braeden Schlehuber, and Shawn McGill perform. Wherever he ends up, Yepez will provide a solid, steady, veteran presence off the bench.

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