Name: Yairo Munoz
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 170
How Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent before the 2012 season.
There is arguably no other prospect in the Oakland A's system who made as big a leap forward in 2014 as shortstop Yairo Munoz. Highly regarded for his defensive skills coming into the season, Munoz impressed not only with the glove but also with the bat. Now going into the 2015, Munoz is positioned as one of the A’s best prospects in the lower-levels of their system.
Munoz came to the A’s in January 2012 as an international amateur free agent. The native of the Dominican was a product of the Dominican Prospect League and had just turned 17 at the time he signed with Oakland.
Munoz made his professional debut later that year in the Dominican Summer League. He appeared in 32 games for the DSL A’s and he hit .229/.297/.352. He showed the A’s enough to earn an invitation to the US for extended spring training in 2013. After a solid stint at extended spring, Munoz appeared in 26 games in the Arizona Rookie League. He struggled at the plate, hitting .194/.286/.284 with his first career homerun. Munoz looked lost at times at the plate, chasing pitches well outside the strike-zone. That fall, Munoz participated in the A’s fall Instructional League. Towards the end of camp, Munoz started to put together better at-bats and things started “clicking.”
"[W]ith continuing plate discipline, the sky is the limit [for Munoz]" - Oakland A’s farm director Keith Lieppman
Despite Munoz’s improvements towards the end of Instructs, the A’s planed to have Munoz spend another season in the Arizona Rookie League in 2014. With the draft taking place too late to help stock the Opening Day roster of the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters, Munoz was sent to Vermont to start the New York-Penn League season. The plan was to have Munoz stay in Vermont until the A’s had draft signees ready to play for the Lake Monsters. Munoz changed that plan, playing too well for the A’s to justify sending him back to Arizona.
Munoz was one of the best all-around players in the New York-Penn League in 2014 when all was said and done. Batting at or near the top of the order, Munoz hit .298/.319/.448 with five homeruns, three triples and 17 doubles. He also caught the eye of opposing managers for his defense at shortstop. Munoz was a starter in the New York-Penn League All-Star game and was named the Lake Monsters’ MVP. 2014 Vermont manager David Newhan said that Munoz was “probably … the most exciting player in the league.”
There is still plenty of rawness in Munoz’s game. He struck-out 42 times and walked just seven times in 2014. He also stole 14 bases in 20 attempts. However, Munoz’s tools and talent have the A’s coaches and front office thinking big about Munoz’s future.
“[W]ith continuing plate discipline, the sky is the limit,” Oakland A’s farm director Keith Lieppman told OaklandClubhouse Arizona Correspondent Kim Contreras.
During fall Instructs, Munoz drew comparisons to Hanley Ramirez, “but with a better throwing arm.”
“He’s got some sock in his bat,” longtime A’s scout and instructor Rich Sparks said. “His bat, if you look at him, you could say he could be like a Hanley Ramirez-type, or something like that. It wouldn’t shock me. I think he’s playing at 185 right now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he wound-up playing at 200, 210. He’s a strong kid and his bat is coming along.”
Munoz is a high-energy hitter. He holds the bat high and waves it back and forth while waiting for a pitch. He also uses a leg lift as a timing mechanism and a one-handed finish to his swing that are both reminiscent of Alfonso Soriano. Munoz has quick wrists and a lot of bat speed. He is a line-drive hitter who is starting to get a feel for lifting those line-drives over the fence. Munoz has above-average speed, but he is still learning the nuances of how to steal bases.
Defensively, Munoz has all of the tools to be an everyday shortstop in the big leagues. He has a plus throwing arm that is easily one of the top four infield throwing arms in the A’s system. Munoz’s footwork is still a work-in-progress, but he has demonstrated the athleticism and instincts to cover a lot of ground at short.
Munoz turned 20 in January. He should be ready to jump to Low-A at the start of the 2015 season. Whether he plays shortstop exclusively or sees some time at second and third, as well as short, will depend on whether the A’s keep Munoz and fellow top prospect Franklin Barreto on the same roster or keep them separated.